Sundowns, United in stalemate
Mabhuti Khenyeza battles with Punch Masenamela (Backpage)
Pretoria - SuperSport United remained unbeaten in the Absa Premiership, while Mamelodi Sundowns continued to struggle in the early stages of the league season, as the powerhouse outfits shared the spoils in a goalless draw in Atteridgeville on Wednesday evening.
The two Pretoria sides failed to live up to the derby hype prior to kickoff, with under-fire Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens looking tentatively over his shoulder at the expectant home fans who - at the same venue - showed their distaste for the Dutch coach as they tried to break through security barriers next to the players' tunnel in a league clash earlier this month.
Sundowns had to make do without stalwarts like Teko Modise and Katlego Mphela, who were both struggling with niggling injuries, while United welcomed back goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who recovered from a head injury he suffered in a league fixture against Orlando Pirates.
Sundowns headed into the match desperate for a win to kick-start their season after claiming only three points from their four opening fixtures, while United came into the tie unbeaten, with three draws and a single win in their early exchanges.
The first half was a dull affair, as neither side found their passes in the final third.
The visitors had the first real chance of the tie, with Atusaye Nyondo firing his shot narrowly over Sundowns goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands' posts, after the striker picked up a loose ball outside the Downs area.
United struggled to control possession and the hosts seemed to settle and find their feet, with defender Alje Schut heading his effort into the crossbar from a dangerous ball into SuperSport's area.
Schut's chance was to be the only meaningful build-up by the Brazilians, as United tried to assert themselves on the game, but the visitors could not finish off.
Sundowns midfielder Esrom Nyandoro thought he came close late in the first period after striking a rocket from outside the United area, but he saw his shot travel tamely into Williams' hands.
The second half started much the same as the first, with neither side looking like troubling the opposition keeper.
Matsatsantsa had the first opportunity of the second period, as Bevan Fransman forced a diving save from Sandilands after the United defender glanced a well-placed header towards goal from a Sameegh Doutie free-kick in the 63rd minute.
Sundowns will feel they could have sealed victory late in the clash, with the introduction of Edward Mnqele in the 69th minute.
Mnqele caused havoc in the SuperSport area, with the best chance of the match falling to the replacement, who picked up a pinpoint cross from out wide to toe his effort towards goal, only for Williams to make a fine save to keep the scores locked at 0-0.
The match came alive in the final minutes of the tie, as United's veteran striker, Sibusiso Zuma, unleashed a shot on target, with Sandilands diving to his right to keep the former Bafana Bafana striker at bay.