Sundowns stunned by Wits
Darren Keet (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - There was misery in abundance for Premier League log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat against a relentless and resourceful Wits University at an emotional, high-charged Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Sunday afternoon.
Apart from dropping three vital points, the team known as the Brazilians suffered the mortification of losing via an 18th minute own goal from the hapless James Mayinga, and then squandered an opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot in the 68th minute.
The spot-kick from Mozambican international Elias Pelembe was saved by Darren Keet in the Wits goal, with the recently-introduced Bafana Bafana squad member making amends for conceding the penalty in the first place.
Pelembe's effort, however, was of a powder-puff nature and reflected the shell-shocked manner in which Sundowns had slumped as time began to run out in the face of their desperate scoring efforts.
Keet produced a more spectacular save from a 90th minute piledriver from substitute Richard Henyekane that enabled Wits to hold on to their memorable victory.
Although Sundowns still clung to a one-point lead from Kaizer Chiefs at the top of the log, in spite of their defeat, their uninspiring performance hardly contained the stamp of champions and the expensively-assembled Chloorkop-based squad clearly have a great deal of soul-searching and self-examination with which to occupy themselves.
For Wits, however, the calculated gamble of taking this home fixture to the svelte World Cup stadium some 300km away from their home turf in Johannesburg proved an unmitigated success in more ways than one.
Not only did they muster the three points that enabled them to effectively creep up the log table, but the crowd in the vicinity of 18,000 was a great deal more than they might have attracted at the Bidvest Stadium.
Also to Wits' credit was the fact that they performed without several key players, but still played with a fearless approach in which they were never over-awed by their supposedly star-studded opponents.
Sundowns effectively lost the match in the first half, despite playing with a great deal more resolution in the second period when they dominated play territorially.
Sundowns' Spanish coach, Antonio Habas, is clearly having problems sorting his squad into the kind of formidable combination expected of it -- demonstrated noticably, perhaps, by the manner in which he inter-changes his top-line goalkeepers Calvin Marlin, Brian Baloyi and Wayne Sandilands instead of deciding on an incumbent number one.
It was Sandilands who was introduced this time -- and, in fairness to the former Platinum Stars goalkeeper, he did little wrong and produced a couple of spectacular saves out of the highest order.