Zimbabwean international Esrom Nyandoro kept Mamelodi Sundowns’ dream of winning the Castle Premiership alive with a late goal to sink city rivals Supersport United 1-0 in their Premier Soccer League (PSL) encounter played at Super Stadium in Atteridgeville on Wednesday evening.<
Nyandoro, who put on a stellar showing throughout the mandatory 90 minutes, struck a thunderous shot from 30m out in the 87th minute, from a Surprise Moriri pass after a failed Sundowns corner, to give his side the vital three points to keep them ahead of Orlando Pirates in the hunt for the championship.
It was a deserved goal for a Sundowns side who had laboured the entire evening with little success.
Often losers or almost-winners in the Pretoria derby, this time around Sundowns needed to win and their hopes of finally conquering their less-fancied rivals almost evaporated in the second half.
Firstly, after a less impressive first half in front of goal, Sundowns striker Jose Torrealba almost opened the scoring in the 49th minute but miscalculated a Dillon Sheppard cross.
United almost struck five minutes later when Abram Raselemane’s shot was bravely saved by Sundowns goalkeeper Andre Arendse.
Sundowns could have sealed their fate in the 74th minute, but Benson Mhlongo’s powerful shot sailed over Calvin Marlin’s goal.
In a tit-for-tat battle that simmered in the second half, United striker Lungisani Ndlela almost ensured that his side messed up the Sundowns pre-championship celebrations when the lanky striker headed the ball over the crossbar in the 85th minute with Arendse well beaten.
The sides were deadlocked at 0-0 at half-time.
In the first half, proceedings resembled something like a boxing match between a seasoned journeyman and a street fighter.
With Sundowns having seized the initiative from the opening exchanges, the visitors toiled, dribbled, theatrically forced fouls in their favour and consistently threatened to score the opening goal.
However, United did the sensible thing and, realising that they could not match their opponents head to head, opted to absorb the pressure and wait for the counter.
Street-fighting Sundowns enjoyed the bulk of the possession and territorial advantage, but failed to make it count with the United defence in tatters.
With the Sundowns midfielders persistently breaching the United defence, their tireless efforts were nullified by the indecisiveness of Sundowns strikers Torrealba and Lerato Chabangu in front of goal.
And with time running out before the half-time break, Sundowns showed signs of desperation as defenders and midfielders shot tamely from range causing little or no problems for Marlin.
In the end, the woes and misfortunes of the first half and most of the second half mattered little as Nyandoro was blanketed by his teammates at the final whistle, a goal that Sundowns will possibly cherish and celebrate long after the season is over. — Sapa