Championship-chasing Pitso Mosimane and his Mamelodi Sundowns troops tasted the delicious aroma of success on Monday night when they beat Golden Arrows in a last-gasp victory that set up a mouth-watering showdown against Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs on Thursday.
It was the second-placed Sundowns’ first win after four failed attempts since the resumption of the Absa Premiership in the beginning of the month and this victory could not have come at a more opportune time for the champions.
Themba Zwane came off the bench to deliver a sucker punch that lit up what was a dull encounter on an uneven surface in Dobsonville against Arrows on Monday night.
The last-gasp 1-0 win left the defending champions breathing heavily on the shoulders of leaders Chiefs ahead of a blockbuster clash that will see the long-time No.1 side take on No.2 at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Thursday (6pm).
Sundowns‚ who were toothless and lacked their normal flair‚ looked set for a fourth draw in five matches and the their title defence fading until the 90th minute when substitute Zwane slammed home from close range to break Arrows’ resistance for his 10th league goal.
Phakamani Mahlambi fought a lone battle for Sundowns upfront as he was at the end of every attacking move for Mosimane’s side with playmaker Gaston Sirino lacking the sharpness to wear down the determined Arrows three-man backline.
Mosimane waited until after an hour of action before making changes and his introduction of Zwane for Mahlambi‚ who ran the Arrows defenders ragged‚ and Keletso Makgalwa for Sirino‚ proved to be the masterstroke as the pair combined for the late goal that left the Arrows players dropping their heads as the final whistle sounded seconds after.
The Brazillians moved to 50 points after 26 matches and trail Chiefs by three points ahead of the crucial match that will provide a much clearer idea of who is likely to bag the R15m first prize money and lift the Premiership title in the last year with Absa as main sponsors next month.
For Arrows the defeat was deflating and heartbreaking having kept Sundowns away from their goalmouth for much of the proceedings.
Steve Komphela’s Arrows are now winless in the bio-safe environment after four matches following two defeats and a draw.
Given their 33 points and with three matches remaining‚ Arrows are almost guaranteed of safety and the former MTN8 champions will be eager to register their first win and claim a stake for a top eight finish in their matches against Cape Town City‚ Bloemfontein Celtic and Chippa United to conclude their season.
Sundowns have relegation-threatened Limpopo teams to deal with as they bid to displace long-time leaders Chiefs with tricky assignments against Baroka FC‚ Polokwane City and Black Leopards after their meeting with Ernst Middendorp’s Amakhosi.
The Ndlovu family in rural Bizana in the Eastern Cape will be rejoicing into the early hours of Tuesday morning after one of their own‚ Siyavuya‚ made his debut in central defence for Arrows.
The 24-year-old Siyavuya Ndlovu covered himself in glory alongside his captain Matome Mathiane after he was thrown into the deep end.
Ndlovu appeared to be star-struck against the Sundowns superstars in the opening minutes but found his footing and was soon winning aerial battles and possession for his team.