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Downs on the rise


Mosimane's mind games pay off as Brazillians pull off solid win against fired-up Chippa United

MAMELODI Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane celebrates with fans after their 5-0 thrashing of Al Ahly in a Champions League first leg quarter-final at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, a week ago. Picture: Gavin Barker BackpagePix

Loftus Versfeld

Mamelodi Sundowns (1)3

Kekana 43, Vilakazi 56, Sirino 69

Chippa United (1)2

Mayambela 25, Manzini 84

FORGET Pitso Mosimane’s words, he and Mamelodi Sundowns want the Absa Premiership and they showed it here with this win that helped them to move level with Orlando Pirates on 50 points.

Jingles, a master of psychological warfare, said last week he has given up on the championship and the “league must go to where it’s supposed to go” after Sundowns lost the Tshwane derby against SuperSport United.

His statement was a dig at the Premier Soccer League who have dragged their feet in punishing Sundowns for fielding an ineligible player against Bidvest Wits last year in October.

But that was all mind games. Mosimane (pictured) never backs down from a fight, no matter how heavily the odds are stacked against him and his team. His words were meant to pressurise the league to pass the ruling on the Wayne Arendse matter while making his team and Sundowns’ fans believe that they are also fighting the system.

It’s a masterstroke in terms of adding fire to his players passion because should they retain the Absa Premiership they will feel like they have not only beaten the other 29 teams but also the system.

He used the same rhetoric to fire Sundowns to glory in the 2016 CAF Champions League by saying that it was a campaign “against all odds” due to the PSL’s refusal to move some of their domestic league games to help them in their continental ambitions.

Those words worked like a charm, driving Sundowns to make history and claim their first continental title. He is hoping that these latest words work again and drive Sundowns to a record ninth league title in the PSL-era.

The unusual kick-off, 3pm during the week, made this match feel like a training exercise at first, rather than a crucial encounter between a team that’s fighting for the championship, Sundowns, against a side that’s fighting for survival with the axe looming large over the Chilli Boys.

But a reasonable crowd made their way here to cheer on Sundowns before they boarded a flight to Morocco last night for the first leg of their CAF Champions League’s semi-final against Wydad Casablanca. Even though Sundowns had one eye on Friday’s match in Casablanca, Mosimane fielded a strong team because they also needed maximum points here as they came into this match three points behind Pirates.

The Brazilians’ start was lethargic. Kennedy Mweene’s butterfingers didn’t help things, neither did conceding early.

Mark Mayambela exposed Sundowns’ defence that was still fast asleep. The left-footed midfielder had so much time and space that he could turn gingerly before unleashing a shot that was missed by everyone in the hosts’ colours.

That goal woke up Sundowns as they realised that they had a fight in their hands.

The Brazilians started controlling the match with authority while showing their intentions to win. Inspirational captain Hlompho Kekana stepped up to level matters with a powerful header from Gaston Sirino’s free-kick.

Sundowns could start to breathe, the fans relaxed and they started to fill the mainly empty stands with their voices.

Sibusiso Vilakazi’s well-timed finish not only announced his return after a lengthy injury but it also gave Sundowns the lead in a match they had to win to keep up with Pirates. Then Sirino secured the victory with his goal.

Rhulani Manzini pulled one back for Chippa, leading to a frantic finish that forced Mweene to pull out a brilliant last-minute save.

All in all, this victory will intensify the final stretch of the league race where Sundowns and Pirates are tied on 50 points with just three matches to go.