Mamelodi Sundowns’ lean run of form in the Absa Premiership continued on Sunday afternoon when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Platinum Stars at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.
The Brazilians had to come from a goal down after Joseph Malongoane had opened the scoring in favour of Dikwena in the latter stages of the first half, but even though they dominated after drawing level through Nyasha Mushekwi, they were unable to force home their advantage.
Sundowns, who started the weekend in second place on the log, now find themselves placed fourth, three points adrift of leaders Orlando Pirates. The Tshwane side have won just one of their last six matches, a run of results which has seen them relinquish a seemingly impenetrable lead at the top of the table.
Sundowns made four changes from the side that lost 1-0 to SuperSport last weekend, with Siyanda Xulu, Lionel Mutizwa, Siyabonga, Ngubane and want-away striker Katlego Mphela making way for Method Mwanjali, Esrom Nyandoro, Mabhuti Khenyeza and Franklin Cale.
Stars, who were hammered 3-0 by Ajax Cape Town in their last outing, made no less than six changes, bringing back in the likes of Henrico Botes, Mbulelo Mabizela and Stanley Kgatla to bolster the ‘spine’ of their side.
The hosts almost opened the scoring in the third minute, with Elias Pelembe latching onto a poor clearance and shooting just wide of the target with a skidding volley.
Stars came even closer themselves just three minutes later, with the upright denying Edward Williams a long range goal after his shot had taken a wicked deflection off defender Matthew Booth.
The visitors needed goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini to come up with an excellent save to keep out a ferocious free kick from Franklin Cale in the 17th minute. The set piece was conceded in the ‘D’ outside the penalty area by Mbulelo Mabizela, who had to resort to a blatant body-check to stop Nyasha Mushekwi.
By this stage the Brazilians had taken charge of the game and on 26 minutes the overlapping Innocent Mdledle whipped in a fine cross from the left that gave Mushekwi a heading chance, but he could only direct his effort straight at Kapini.
Mushekwi had another great chance two minutes later, peeling off the back of his marker to run onto a clever pass from Pelembe, but he was denied by a brave block from the excellent Kapini.
Dikwena threatened sporadically, with their best chance arriving in the 33rd minute when Henrico Botes was presented with a shooting chance on the right of the ‘Downs penalty area, but the Namibian striker only hit the side netting with his shot.
Yet nine minutes later, and very much against the run of play, Stars took the lead. A swift counter attack saw Williams play a perfectly-weighted ball for Joseph Malongoane to run onto and the young winger finished with the chance with impressive aplomb, chipping the ball over the advancing Wayne Sandilands.
Malongoane’s goal left the Brazilians looking down the barrel at half time, but it took them just 14 minutes of the second half to bring themselves level. Pelembe whipped in a superb cross from the right flank and Mushekwi finished emphatically with a diving header to make it 1-1.
Sundowns created two chances for Mabhuti Khenyeza within ten minutes of their equalising goal, but the attacker saw his first effort well saved by Kapini and for his second he opted to cross rather than go for goal and left substitute Richard Henyekane with too much to do at the far post.
On 77 minutes Stars’ Solomon Mathe waltzed his way through the home side’s backline but, rather than looking to shoot on goal, he opted to try and square the ball for Botes and his delay allowed just enough time for Method Mwanjali to make a saving tackle.
Sundowns dominated what remained of the match but were simply unable to find a way to penetrate Stars’ defence.
Mamelodi Sundowns (0) 1 (Mushekwi 59’)
Platinum Stars (1) 1 (Malongoane 42’)
Sundowns: (4-2-3-1) Sandilands; Mungomeni, Booth, Mwanjali, Mdledle; Pattison (Moriri 79’), Nyandoro; Pelembe, Khenyeza, Cale (Henyekane 70’); Mushekwi
Stars: (4-4-1-1) Kapini; Sambu, Mabizela, Mpangase, Thebakeng; Malongoane (Ramolesa 79’), Kgatla, Mathe, Williams (Phala 65’); Nyanda; Botes (Grobler 81’)
Referee: Buyile Gqubule
Cautions: Nyandoro, Mungomeni; Mabizela, Mathe