Sundowns, Chiefs in stalemate
Katlego Mphela of Mamelodi Sundowns evades challenge from Reneilwe Letsholonyane of Kaizer Chiefs (Backpage)
Pretoria - Log-leaders Kaizer Chiefs and hosts Mamelodi Sundowns had to share the spoils as the teams ended their Premiership derby clash goalless at a near capacity Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday evening.
The fixture was the first for either side since December 19, as the Premiership resumed after the Africa Cup of Nations enforced break.
The point puts Chiefs in danger of relinquishing top spot, as defending champions Orlando Pirates - who take on SuperSport United on Wednesday - have the opportunity of reaching the top of the league standings, should they claim all three points at the Orlando Stadium.
VIDEO: Sundowns v Chiefs, highlights
Amakhosi boss Stuart Baxter included all seven returning Bafana Bafana players in his starting lineup, while Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane started both Wayne Sandilands - who remained on the bench throughout Bafana's Africa Cup of Nations campaign - and striker Katlego Mphela.
The hosts dominated the opening 15 minutes of the first-half, but struggled to create any real chances for their forwards, who resorted to testing Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune from distance, but were unsuccessful.
With neither side threatening, it would take Sundowns 26 minutes to get their first shot on target, albeit a tame effort from Teko Modise, who drove a low shot straight at Khune, who made a routine save.
Chiefs had to wait until the stroke of half-time for their first opportunity, as Bernard Parker put George Lebese through on goal, before Lebese forced a solid save from Sundowns 'keeper Sandilands, who spilled his stop, but relied had his defence to clear the danger.
With the score goalless at the interval, the Amakhosi were first to threaten five minutes into the second period, as Lebese received a ball inside Downs' half, made a darting run, before delivering a pinpoint cross toward the far post, where Parker rose well and should have done better from close range, but missed his volley right of the post and let the Brazilians off the hook.
Five minutes later, Sandilands was called into action again, when Siboniso Gaxa rounded-off a patient Chiefs build-up with a thunderous right-footed effort from right of goal, but the shot-stopper was equal to the task and parried away Gaxa's effort.
Sundowns had to work for their chances and came agonisingly close 11 minutes from time, when Tebogo Langerman delivered an accurate ball into the Chiefs are and found the head of second half replacement Themba Zwane, who flicked on a deft touch, only for Khune to tip the ball over the bar with a splendid diving effort.
Chiefs replied with what they thought was the winner, but had their celebrations cut short in the 82nd minute, as Mandla Masango had his goal disallowed for offside, after putting the ball past Sandilands following a goalmouth scramble.
The visitors continued to push for a result, as a lively Masango found fellow replacement Kingston Nkhatha in the area, but the striker skied his header, and left Sandilands untroubled in goal.