Sundowns scrape past Chippa to join Pirates at the summit

Sibusiso Vilakazi of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership 2018/19 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Chippa United at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 23 April 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Sibusiso Vilakazi of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership 2018/19 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Chippa United at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 23 April 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns drew level on points with Orlando Pirates at the top of the Premiership standings following a 3-2 win over Chippa United at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

Pirates, who like Sundowns have played 27 league matches, remain top on goal difference, and can potentially extend their lead at the summit when they take on Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday night.

Sundowns, meanwhile, may still be docked points for fielding an ineligible player in the 1-1 draw with Bidvest Wits last October – and with Wits still in the title hunt themselves, there could well still be a few twists and turns before the league ends on May 11.

Mark Mayambela had given the Port Elizabeth-based side a 25th minute lead, which was cancelled out by Masandawana skipper Hlompho Kekana two minutes before halftime. Second half goals by Sibusiso Vilakazi and Gaston Sirino put Pitso Mosimane’s side 3-1 up, before Rhulani Manzini reduced the deficit in the 84th minute.

There was a chance for Sundowns as early as the third minute when Sirino’s cross picked out Musa Lebusa at the back post, but his volley flew in to the side-netting.

Relegation-threatened Chippa, who had made eight changes to the starting XI which lost to Kaizer Chiefs in the Nedbank Cup last weekend, also posed a threat in the opening stages of the game as Bangali Keita missed a great chance to convert Ruzaigh Gamildien’s fifth minute corner before Manzini fired a shot over the bar.

And it was the visitors who drew first blood as Sundowns failed to clear their box and Mayambela was given space to turn before curling a left-footed shot into the back of the net.

For their part, the Brazilians did not look at their sharpest – likely a result of being in the middle of a very intense domestic and continental fixture program – and they lacked penetration and accuracy as Kekana and Tebogo Langerman both fired shots well over the bar in an attempt to get back into the game.

Chippa seemed to be heading to the interval with their lead intact, however, the hosts had other ideas as Kekana powered home a header from a Sirino free kick in the 43rd minute.

Masandawana ended the first half on the front foot as Lebohang Maboe had a volley turned round the post by Mbongeni Mzimela, and the Tshwane side continued to ask questions of the Chippa defence after the restart as they played with renewed energy and purpose.

And they were to go in front for the first time in the 56th minute after a lovely move as Sirino split the defence for Langerman, who pulled the ball back from the byline for Vilakazi to fire into the net.

Sundowns had their insurance goal 12 minutes later, when Sirino beat Mzimela with a powerful strike from the edge of the box.

After Mzimela made saves to deny both Thapelo Morena and Maboe adding a fourth, the Chilli Boys ensured a nervy final few minutes at Loftus when Andile Mbenyane released Manzini to score in the 84th minute.

Indeed, Sundowns were indebted to goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene as he made a spectacular and dramatic double save on Mbenyane deep in added time as the Brazilians just about made it through to full time with all three points in the bag.

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