Sundowns march into Cup final, on course for treble

5 May 2024

Mamelodi Sundowns are on course for a treble, setting up a dream final against Orlando Pirates in an exciting 2-1 Nedbank Cup semifinal victory against tough Stellenbosch FC on Sunday.

Right wingback Khuliso Mudau put Sundowns ahead in the 11th minute and Thembinkosi Lorch doubled the lead in the 74th. Moments after Peter Shalulile missed a penalty in the 80th, Genino Palace pulled one back for Stellies in the 81st.

Again, there will be unfortunate complaints over an officiating decision. Stellenbosch had a legitimate first-half goal by Iqraam Rayners ruled offside, which would have made the scoreline 1-1 at the break and could have changed the complexion of the game.

That should not take away from another superb display on the field by coach Rulani Mokwena’s Sundowns who, if this were an ultra-marathon, should have collapsed many matches ago as they have run 20km more than the rest.

Downs — competing across an exhausting six competitions and progressing far in almost all of them — were playing their 51st match of the campaign and impressively muscled possession, territory and chances to dominate the team second in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

Downs won the inaugural African Football League in November and wrapped up their seventh successive PSL title last week. They will contest the Nedbank final against Pirates, who beat Chippa United 3-1 in their semi on Saturday, on June 1 at Mbombela Stadium.

Sundowns applied consistent pressure in the first half, pressing high and keeping Steve Barker’s superbly drilled but ultimately outgunned Stellenbosch pressed back to take a goal lead to the break.

Sundowns took the lead, as, with numbers streaming forward, Lucas Ribeiro received the ball on the edge of the box and slipped a pass to Mudau free on the right, who had time and space to line up a powerful finish past Oscarine Masuluke.

The first half was held up for six minutes (resulting in 13 minutes of added time at the break) as assistant referee Zakhele Siwela had to go off after pulling a hamstring and his replacement had to be readied.

Soon after the restart Stellies had a legitimate goal disallowed. Van Rooyen’s free-kick on the left picked out the near-post run of Rayners to beat offside and finish past Ronwen Williams, with the flag going up for offside when replays showed the striker was played onside by Downs centreback Bathusi Aubaas.

Sundowns got their second goal in a move from deep in their half when the ball was lobbed up to Shalulile on the right who instantly chipped in for Lorch to steam through and head in via a touch by Masuluke.

It could have been 3-0 as that man Mudau was brought down by substitute Qobolwakhe Sibande and referee Jelly Chavani pointed to the spot. Shalulile went for the top-right corner but blasted high.

Downs instantly regretted the miss as, from a pass forward by Nduli that was placed into the path of Palace by Antonio van Wyk’s delightful touch Stellies pulled one back to make for a nervy final 10 minutes for Mokwena’s men.

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