JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Apr 25 – Defender Brian Mandela returned to the Mamelodi Sundowns starting team and played for 79 minutes while midfielder Anthony Akumu missed out for Kaizer Chiefs as Masandawana surrendered a 21-match unbeaten run with a 2-1 loss at home to mid-table Amakhosi on Sunday.
Mandela who has slowly returned to the team from injury was rested with 11 minutes to go with Ricardo Nascimento taking his place. Akumu has not been featuring for Chiefs of late.
Uruguayan Gaston Sirino gave the frontrunners a 35th-minute lead in Pretoria only for the home side to concede twice in two minutes midway through the second half.
Mosa Lebusa conceded an own-goal on 72 minutes when his deflection of a cross from Serb Samir Nurkovic left Ugandan goalkeeper Dennis Onyango helpless to prevent it entering the net.
Rattled Sundowns had not recovered when a superb pass down the middle from Njabulo Blom sent Dumisani Zuma clear and he fired a low shot into the corner of the net.
Defending champions Sundowns remain on top with 47 points, but their lead over second-place AmaZulu has been trimmed to three points.
Sundowns do have two matches in hand over their closest rivals, but with co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi warning that his team are becoming tired, there is no guarantee those extra matches will translate into points.
“We have played far too many matches in a short space of time. Fatigue is beginning to show. We have lacked sharpness lately,” said Mngqithi.
The Pretoria outfit were stunned by lowly TTM in an FA Cup semi-final last Sunday and drew with AmaZulu three days later, while failing to score in either match.
Sundowns have eight league matches to play as they chase a record fourth straight Premiership title and Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt does not see any challenger overtaking them.
“They have so many quality players to choose from, especially up front, that I cannot see anyone stopping them,” he said.
Hunt then hailed his own team, who rose three places to eighth as they avenged a three-goal hammering from Sundowns on the opening weekend of the season.
“We deserved something for the determination we showed. The boys were a bit down after losing in midweek and we had to field several in positions they are unused to.
“But we counter-attacked well and should have scored more goals given the number of three-versus-three situations we created.”