Mamelodi Sundowns extended their remarkable record in domestic league competition by winning 2-1 against Royal AM in KwaZulu-Natal to reach the Nedbank Cup finals.
The Tshwane giants netted two goals in the second half of the intriguing encounter at Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday to reach the finals of the KeYona Competition. Aubrey Modiba’s stunner free kick put The Brazilians in the lead after the 60 minutes of play, however the celebration was short lived after Thabo Matlaba equalized for Thwihli Thwahla 10 minutes later. Masandawana were back on their feet grinding for their second goal, Pavol Safranko took home the winner at the 75th minute to keep Bafana Ba Style’s treble quest in full sight.
It was a thrilling, lively start from two of the in-form teams in the Premier Soccer League that set the tone for the whole match. The first effort came from Neo Maema with a shot going over Royal AM’s goalposts. The hosts shortly responded with their own attack on the right side of the pitch through Shaun Mogaila, but Brian Onyango was at hand to stop the winger from going any further into the box.
Royal AM were relentless in their pursuit to find a goal in the opening round of the battle, a scramble in Masandawana’s box looked deadly as the defenders worked hard to get the ball out of the box. Andile Jali did well to block Victor Letswalo’s cross into the box that had Royal AM’s men ready to attack it.
The Brazilians continued to press forward and had much the better of the rest of the first half with a 56% ball possession and two goal attempts at the end of the half, while Thwihli Thwahla registered zero goal attempts.
Downs came flying out of the blocks after the restart as Khuliso Mudau raced clear and delivered a cross into the box, but with no one to finish off the efforts. But again Masandawana grew into the half, and had a chance when Bradley Ralani and Maema combined inside the box with a foul on Maema but play continued as the referee denied any foul play.
Masandawana continued with passes in behind Royal’s defence which were causing all manner of problems, and moments later Pavol Safranko was hauled down by Matlaba near the box. Three of Masandawana players stood over the ball, but it was Modiba’s fine thunder strike over Patrick Nyame’s wall that put the visitors one step closer into the final as the ball caught the back of the net and put Downs in the lead.
Royal’s long range effort was parried away by Sundowns’ keeper comfortably in the air. The hosts did not give up and came at a blistering pace when Matlaba fired one just outside the box to go past Onyango’s hands into the net. Downs immediately charged their attacking lines forward but the well organised Royal defence was standing firm.
Bafana Ba Style kept on applying the pressure going into the final 15 minutes of the game, an error from Nyame as he tried to move the ball out if his box was blocked by Shalulile with the ball falling into Safranko’s way. The Slovak international striker put the ball in the net and reclaimed Masandawana’s hopes of yet another domestic Cup final.
Royal came close to an equalizer with Tshepo Rikhotso’s free kick on target, the center back’s attempt was brilliantly saved by Onyango. The hosts tried to rally in the final minutes forcing Onyango to make another superb save before the referee blew his whistle for full time.
Masandawana will meet Marumo Gallants in the final of the Nedbank Cup competition on the 28th of May at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
This is how we lined up:
Onyango ©, G. Kekana, B. Onyango (39′ Lunga), K. Mudau, P. Safranko (80′ Sirino), A. Modiba, A. Jali, N. Maema (80′ Lakay), B. Ralani (64′ Zwane), L. Maboe, P. Shalulile.
Mweene, D. Lunga, T. Kutumela, T. Mokoena, L. Lakay, S. Mkhulise, G. Sirino, H. Domingo, T. Zwane