Downs break losing streak to advance
Mamelodi Sundowns ended an eight-game winless streak and moved into the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout with a 1-0 win over neighbours University of Pretoria at Loftus Stadium on Tuesday night.
Liberian attacker Anthony Laffor scored the only goal of the game early in the second half, securing the Brazilians’ first victory in league or cup football since early August and easing the pressure, at least for now, on coach Johan Neeskens.
Sundowns dominated possession in the early stages of the game, but it took them 22 minutes to get a notable effort on target, with Teko Modise’s shot direct from a free kick forcing Tuks goalkeeper Washington Arubi into a good save.
On 39 minutes Modise had the beating of Arubi from another free kick in a very similar position to the first, but his beautifully-struck effort crashed back off the crossbar and his ‘Downs teammates were unable to capitalise on the rebound.
Two minutes later Eleazar Rodgers was presented with a great scoring chance after a great pull-back from the by-line by Punch Masenamela, but the former Santos striker completely fluffed his attempt at a shot, leading to Brazilians supporters calling for an early withdrawal for him.
Sundowns would have been disappointed to go into the break with the game still locked at 0-0, having dominated the match to the extent that they had won eight corners (compared to zero for Tuks) in the first 45 minutes.
The home side’s attack finally clicked into a higher gear in the third minute of the second half. Masenamela picked out Elias Pelembe on the right wing, who beat his marker before providing a perfect low pass which was swept emphatically into the back of the net by Anthony Laffor to make it 1-0.
The Liberian attacker threatened a second goal on the hour mark with a fearsome shot that deflected off a defender and went just over the crossbar, while Rodgers nearly had the beating of Arubi with a speculative long range effort a minute later.
Sundowns goalkeeper Dennis Onyango was a spectator in the first half, but he saw more action in the second, keeping out an angled drive from Mame Niang before twice having to punch away an awkward aerial ball in the 74th minute as Tuks began to put more pressure on the hosts’ defence.
Sundowns substitute Nyasha Mushekwi had a golden chance to wrap up the game ten minutes before the end of regulation time when he pinched the ball off Tebogo Monyai and headed toward goal, but the experienced defender got back to make a risky challenge from behind and did just enough to deny the striker and not concede a penalty.
Goalkeeper Arubi produced two excellent saves to keep the score down to 1-0 in the dying minutes, keeping out goal-bound efforts from Mushekwi and Hlompho Kekana as Sundowns searched for a killer second goal.
Mamelodi Sundowns (0) 1 (Laffor 48’)
University of Pretoria 0
Sundowns: Onyango, Mabaso, Daniels, Schut, Masenamela, Laffor (Langerman 86’), Nyandoro, Modise, Pelembe, Manqele (Kekana 78’), Rodgers (Mushekwi 77’)
Tuks: Arubi, Kobola (Lubelo 82’), Shoyisa (Sekotlong 90+2’), Monyai, Sibande, Zungu, Ketjijere, Matsi, Ngoma, Niang, Radebe (Ngwenya 65’)