Big games take their toll as Caf champions falter at home
Mamelodi Sundowns wilted in Pretoria’s fierce heat yesterday when they went down 2-1 to a well-drilled Cape Town City side. City captain Lebogang Manyama led by example with a brace and an impressive 90-minute performance to help the new boys record their third league win of the season.
Sundowns were sub-par, but after their energy-sapping Caf Champions League and Telkom Knockout Cup performances, this loss was unsurprising as they looked fatigued.
For the home side, it was the absence of a cohesive performance from their back four that will leave coach Pitso Mosimane worried.
When Cape Town City took the lead in the 22nd minute through Manyama, it was well deserved as the visitors had done most of the incisive running.
They seemed to respond better to the heat than Sundowns and the hosts had to battle a slow start.
While they did not look like a side that was disrespecting the game, it was clear they were battling to adapt to the slower pace of the league. After all, it was only their second league game of the season and it showed.
Manyama was causing all sorts of havoc in his free role up front and was at the heart of everything good done by the visitors. He caused most trouble on the right-hand side, which was where the goal came when an Ebrahim Seedat pass found the dangerous Aubrey Ngoma, who slipped the key assist through to his captain.
Ngoma should have scored City’s second in the 43rd minute when Asavela Mbekile got in the way of his shot, with Kennedy Mweene all over the place.
Sundowns came into the game more in the second half when the temperature had cooled, showing a similar performance to the one during their 2-0 Telkom Knockout Cup last-16 win against Polokwane City.
That paid off when Sundowns scored a 58th-minute equaliser through Thabo Nthethe, whose well-placed header from a Khama Billiat free kick was too good for Shuaib Walters.
Half-time substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro should have put City in the lead in the 79th minute when he combined well with Given Mashikinya to open up the Sundowns’ defence.
However, his indecision allowed Mweene and the struggling Sundowns’ defenders to regroup and clear the danger.
Manyama was not so generous four minutes later and showed Majoro how to convert a chance when he banged home an Ngoma cross from the left.
Again it was a cause of Sundowns uncharacteristically losing their defensive shape, with Thapelo Morena at fault this time.
It was a killer blow that Sundowns failed to recover from.