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Sundowns have a vulnerability that rival teams should exploit if they can consolidate their form

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By Herman Gibbs

Cape Town — There has been a vulnerability about Mamelodi Sundowns in their recent Premiership matches which suggest that it may not be a dawdle en route to another Premiership title.

Last week Sundowns were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Baroka FC despite securing a lion’s share of possession. Sundowns were unable to score a field goal after enjoying nine shots at goal. In the end, they relied on a set-piece to score and defender Lyle Lakay obliged from his trademark curling shot, which has already produced several goals this season

Baroka had six shots in the match, but one of them counted. It may well have been a pot-shot because there was no scoring move in progress. But Richard Mbulu, who recently played for Malawi at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, hoofed the ball on the volley just 10 metres out the Sundowns penalty. Sundowns goalkeeper Ugandan Denis Onyango saw the ball late and by the time he launched into a diving mode, the ball landed in the roof of his goals, in the dying minutes of the match.

A week earlier, Sundowns ran out 2-0 winners against struggling Chippa United who played for 70 minutes with a player short after midfielder Siphesihle Mkhize was red-carded early in the first half.

Sundowns also dominated possession and again their shots count was fairly low, less than 10. Chippa, surprisingly had six shots on goal and at one stage they looked like they would render Sundowns scoreless in the second half, but they conceded a goal near the end.

The match statistics of these two Premiership matches may prove heartening for the title pretenders even though log-leaders Sundowns have a runaway lead of 17 points. The teams in the upper reaches of the log are Orlando Pirates, Stellenbosch FC and Kaizer Chiefs. All three clubs have played fewer matches than Sundowns and all three displayed erratic form although Pirates have been a touch more consistent.

Second-placed Pirates are on 31 points after 20 games. Realistically they can finish with 30 more points if they win the remaining 10 games and end with 61 points. Sundowns, after 21 matches have 48 points, and should they pick up 18 more points from their remaining nine games, they will be in an unassailable position.

Of course, should Pirates drop more points in their remaining games, Sundowns’ will have a far easier task to winning the league.

Chiefs could find themselves in an interesting position if their arbitration goes their way and the PSL agrees to allow them to play the two matches that they were forced to miss because of the coronavirus pandemic. Chiefs, presently in fourth place on the Premiership standings, have 29 points after 17 games. Should they be allowed to play the two matches and they win both, they could run Sundowns close if they enjoy a winning sequence towards the end of the season.

Teams like Pirates, Stellenbosch and Chiefs need to consolidate their form and if they do so they can pick up the slack and become title contenders rather than title pretenders.

@Herman_Gibbs

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