Mamelodi Sundowns’ mini slump took a decidedly negative turn on Saturday afternoon as they were bundled out of the Nedbank Cup at home by Lamontville Golden Arrows after a superb individual goal from 21-year-old talent Nduduzo Sibiya just under 20 minutes from time.
Sundowns, admittedly struggling to keep their expansive squad fit, have now won just two of their last nine encounters and will have warning lights flashing starkly in their face. Sibiya, among the top finds of the season, sold a clever dummy to turn the Sundowns defence and sprinted away to hold his nerve and slot the ball past Kennedy Mweene to settle the outcomre.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane was forced to make several changes ahead of their clash after seven players were ruled out with injuries. He paired young defender Motjeka Madisha with Thabo Nthethe at centre-back positions.
Meanwhile, Arrows coach Clinton Larsen named an unchanged squad from the side that claimed victory in their last encounter against Highlands Park.
Sundowns began the game brightly as they put the Arrows’ defence under the cosh from the onset.
However, for all of their constant pressure, they did little to trouble the Arrows’ keeper. With eight minutes played in the match, Sundowns should have taken an early lead. Thapelo Morena cut into the area but his erratic shot sailed over the Arrows goal from close range.
Sundowns were completely dominant, but it took 15 minutes for Nkosingiphile Gumede to be forced into his first real save of the game. The keeper came out well as he narrowed the angle, before denying Khama Billiat.
Arrows were passengers for the better part of the first half as they looked content to sit back and play on the counter attack.
Nonetheless, Larsen’s men had a glorious chance to grab the opener with the half-hour mark approaching, but Sibusiso Sibeko failed to steer his attempt goal wards, after latching onto a superb cross.
With the half time whistle looming, Arrows began to assert themselves more into the encounter. Kennedy Mweene was forced into a smart save at the near post from a Knox Mutizwa shot deep into stoppage time, as Arrows ended the half the better of the two sides.
After the restart, the crowd in Atteridgeville were hoping for an improved half of football. Sundowns continued to have Arrows on the backfoot but coach Mosimane became highly agitated as his troops were guilty of turning over possession far too easily in crucial areas.
Sundowns struggled to find a breakthrough past a resolute Arrows’ defence. This led to Sundowns trying their luck from range, but Gumede stood tall.
The home side would continue to bombard the Arrows’ box and Hlompho Kekana found himself in space, only for his shot to go wide.
With the hour-mark approaching, Sundowns injury woes were deepened further as Mzikayise Mashaba limped off. The left-footed player was replaced by Themba Zwane.
On the day, Gumede was arguably the busier of the two keepers and he put on an impressive performance. The 23-year-old was again called into action and he did well to block Percy Tau’s shot. As the match progressed, It became a rather frustrating afternoon for both sets of fans, as clear-cut chances were few and far between.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 67th minute after exciting youngster Sibiya, broke through the Sundowns’ defence before expertly slotting his effort past Mweene.
The goal seemed to spur Arrows on as they grew in confidence. Almost immediately, Knox Mutizwa looked to double Arrows’ advantage but the Zimbabwean’s shot was comfortably saved by the Sundowns’ keeper.
With time running out, Sundowns threw everything forward in hope of finding the equaliser, but the Arrows’ defence put on a valiant showing as they repelled the danger.
Billiat had an opportunity to draw his side level as he found himself unmarked at the far post, but the 26-year-old could not direct his header goal wards.
Arrows held on to their lead, and in the end, booked their place in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition.
Additional reporting Goal