The Absa Premiership 2018/19 season kicked off with a bang when the best of Tshwane locked horns with the best of Joburg to produce a splendidly thrilling match at a filled to capacity Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Billed as the ‘Big Bang’ opener of the season, the game between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs lived up to its expectations right from the word go up until the final whistle but ended in a stalemate 1–1 draw.
Chiefs kicked off like a house on fire and were rewarded in the eighth minute from the boot of former Sundowns player and captain, Ramahlwe ‘Rama’ Mphahlele. He had weaved through a maze of Brazilian defenders before unleashing a powerful grasscutter that gave Ugandan international keeper Denis Onyango no chance.
Stung by the early goal, the Brazilians immediately set out to level matters but their ever dependable winger-cum goal poacher Themba Zwane failed to give Masandawana fans a response as his shot went wide of Chiefs’ Itumeleng Khune’s goalmouth.
However, Downs did get their equaliser in the 23rd minute after striker Jeremy Brockie was fouled in the box and the referee never hesitated to point to the penalty spot. Ricardo Nascimento stepped up and made no mistake and the two giants were on level terms.
The thriller was a bit ill-tempered as Chiefs’ Leonardo Castro, a former Downs striker, took revenge for an earlier bad tackle on him by Brazilian captain Hlompho Kekana, with Castro earning an unnecessary yellow.
Brockie had the opportunity to put Downs ahead with a first-time volley but his strike struck the crossbar and then he was again denied, this time by Khune, who stuck out a leg to block Brockie’s goal-bound shot.
Downs missed another opportunity when Uruguayan Gaston Sirino of Sundowns unleashed a piledriver which missed Khune’s post by inches while at the other end Amakhosi’s Siphiwe Tshabalala missed a gift of a chance.
Castro had his share of attempts at goal and Zwane missed another but in the end, the two teams settled for the 1–1 draw, a result which could be favourable to Chiefs as the away team.
Chiefs new coach Italian Giovanni Solinas was delighted at the spirit shown by his men in what he called a tough match while Pitso Mosimane described his team as a work in progress.
“It’s early [in the league], we will get there,” Mosimane said.
Sundowns came up against their former midfield maestro-cum striker, Zimbabwean Khama Billiat, who was complemented by Castro and the pair seemed to gel very well. Billiat was voted Man of the Match.
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