PSL News 21.2.2018 10:07 pm

Sundowns stutter against Free State Stars

Siphelele Mthembu of Free State Stars celebrates a goal with teammates  during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars on 21 February 2018 at  Loftus Versfeld Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Siphelele Mthembu of Free State Stars celebrates a goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars on 21 February 2018 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Free State Stars showed why they’re amongst the title contenders when they fought back to claim a 1-1 league draw away to Mamelodi Sundowns at the Loftus Versveld on Wednesday night.

Stars certainly had their chances in front of goal, but based on the balance of play, it was the Tshwane team who could have claimed all three points had they been sharper in front of goal, although credit must also go to Stars keeper and Man-of-the-Match Badra Sangare.

Sundowns were off to the perfect start when with just four minutes on the clock Gaston Sirino combined nicely with Percy Tau in the box before the latter slotted in a low precision shot from 12-yards out.

More chances followed as Sirino curled an effort just over and Khama Billiat fire tamely at Sangare. Ea La Koto had chances on the counter but couldn’t make them count as Nhlanhla Vilakazi went close with a long distance chip before ‘Downs keeper Denis Onyango did well to save at the feet of Sinethemba Jantjie, also keeping out a Harris Tchilimbou header.

The Brazilians were creating chances at will, but it wouldn’t fall for them in front of goal, for new signing Jeremy Brockie in particular, who was twice denied by the finest of saves from Sangare, and also sent another shot wide from a great position in the box.

The Free Staters started the second half with purpose and had early chances through Siphelele Mthembu and Tchilimbou.

The balance of the game was quickly turning towards Stars and they were back on level terms in the 54th minute when Mthembu bundled the ball in after Onyango had blocked his initial shot.

After Paulus Masehe went close to putting Stars ahead with a pile-driver from range, Masandawana suddenly snapped back into action, but the score-line remained unchanged as Tau shot wide before Sangare pulled off yet another breath-taking save to keep out a venomous strike from Tiyani Mabunda 25 minutes from time.

More chances followed for the hosts as the pressure mounted on Stars, but some brave defending and some more superb goalkeeping from Sangare kept Sundowns at bay.

And when Ricardo Nascimento flashed a late header wide, it clearly wasn’t meant to be for the Pretoria side, who seem to be under increasing danger of being hauled in by the chasing pack.

It could indeed have been worse for Sundowns when Stars were denied what looked a good call for a penalty after Onyango took down Vilakazi in the box.

Sundowns are five points clear of second-placed Chiefs, with Free State Stars just one point further back in fourth spot, behind Pirates on goal difference.

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