Mamelodi Sundowns failed to get their Absa Premiership title challenge hopes back on track after going down 2-1 to Free State Stars in Absa Premiership clash played at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday afternoon.
Goals in each half by Thabo Matlama and Phumlani Mhamha sealed the three points for Stars, while Sundowns got their consolation goal via Nyasha Mushekwi’s header.
Stars, who were the hosts for this encounter, normally play their home games in Phuthaditshaba Goble Park Stadium. After clinching a deal with the Polokwane municipality, they decided to host the Brazilians at Peter Mokaba Stadium as part of the club’s new marketing strategy, and the move proved to be a good one for Ea Lla Koto.
Coming into this game, Free State Stars were brimming with confidence after their 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows, while Sundowns were still trying to recover from set back they suffered after going down 2-1 to Pirates.
Stars dominated the first half of this encounter, as they created plenty of scoring opportunities, but poor finishing let them down. Coach Steve Komphela was understandably upset with the misfiring of his strikers.
The hosts had what looked like a legitimate penalty after Innocent Mdledle tripped Madoda Motha inside the box in the 10th minute but the referee waved play on.
However their reward arrived when Thabo Matlama was set up by Boitumelo Sekgobela before beating Wayne Sandilands with a low shot in the 25th minute.
But Free State Stars’ joy was short-lived as Sundowns surged forward with much precision and equalised via Nyasha Mushekwi’s brave header after a long ball from Matthew Pattison in the 27th minute.
However, in the interim, Mushekwi collided with Stars ‘keeper Kennedy Mweene and had to be replaced by Katlego Mphela in the 28th minute. Mphela was playing his first game for Sundowns since he returned to the club after a self imposed exile.
Teko Modise, who was playing behind the strikers, failed to live up to expectations associated with the number 8 on the back of his jersey. Modise was replaced by Richard Henykane in the 80th minute.
After a glut of missed opportunities in the first half, Sundowns came back the more attacking side in the second half, and in at attempt to defend a square ball from Elias Pelembe, Stars’ defender Dany Mbo nearly put the ball at the back of his net, but Mweene recovered in time to save the ball before it crossed the line in the 47th minute.
Sundowns’ best effort in the second half came from Mabhuti Khenyeza, but after receiving a well taken cross from Elias Pelembe in the 59th minute, the Sundowns striker ballooned his shot over the bar.
As if not to be outdone, Stars’ Thabo Matlaba also directed what could have been his second for day over the bar with Wayne Sandilands off balance in the 69th minute, much to the disappointment of the technical staff and his teammates.
However the Komphela’s charges never looked back in a bid to regain the lead. It came as no surprise when, after a well taken corner kick from the right, Phumlani Mhamha out-jumped Sundowns’ Thapelo Tshilo before beating Wayne Sandilands with a beautiful header in the 73rd minute to seal the game for his team.
In other Absa Premiership matches today, Ajax Cape Town strengthened their claim to the title by lashing Vasco da Gama 2-0 in a Cape derby. Irresistable Thulani Serero scored a brace to give Ajax full points.
BidVest Wits sent Mpumalanga Black Aces further down the relegation quagmire with a 3-0 defeat, while Bloemfontein Celtic forced a 1-1 draw away to Platinum Stars.