City scupper Sundowns’ hopes for ‘Invincibles’ tag



Published May 26, 2024




Rhodes 60’

PRETORIA – The “Invincibles” story didn’t happen for Mamelodi Sundowns after they lost their final match of the season in the DStv Premiership yesterday.

The Brazilians, however, were still crowned national champions for a record-extending seventh time in the row, a historic feat in South African football.

They recorded 73 points for the first time – the highest points tally since the 2015/2016 season, which was set by the club – but it could have been more.

Cape Town City, on the last day of the season, stood between them and setting a record of no defeats and the highest points tally in the league (75) since the 1998/1999 season.

The Brazilians’ hearts were broken by Jaedin Rhodes’ solo goal in the 60th minute, and appeared shattered after the final whistle.

While City celebrated like champions, Sundowns’ bench and their on-field players cut dejected figures – despite the home crowd cheering coach Rulani Mokwena after his address.

Upon walking back from the dressing room to collect their medals, Sundowns’ players got a standing ovation from their supporters.

The Yellow Nation could be celebrating again should the Brazilians beat rivals Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup final in Mbombela on Saturday.

Having already broken their 2015/2016 season record of 71 points with two games to spare, Sundowns still wanted to do one better – become the immortals.

But it wasn’t to be, despite the Brazilians strolling onto this pitch like the champions they are – a guard of honour from City affirming just that.

The champions looked relaxed in the warm-ups, moving through their drill with no sense of panic before taking longer to come out on the pitch after City had set up the guard of honour.

Mokwena also showed a champion’s approach in his starting line-up, rotating his team from the one that snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat against TS Galaxy on Tuesday.

Mokwena yesterday demanded nothing but the best from his troops, applauding them when they made final entries, and cutting a bored figure against the run of play.

The 37-year-old demonstrated his demand for excellence by pulling the ear of the young Siyabonga Mabena, 17, when he was not adhering to instructions.

Mabena heeded the tongue-lashing such that the supporters that streamed into the venue during the course of the first half missed his best half in the Sundowns’ jersey.

The Brazilians’ No 22 cut through City’s defence with ease and swagger, proving that he has nerves of steel despite his tender age.

Mabena was the highlight of the first half as both goalkeepers Ronwen Williams and Darren Keet kept clean sheets heading into the break.

That seemed to augur well for Williams, who momentarily added more reasons to why he should be crowned the PSL Footballer and Goalkeeper of the Season after his nominations.

But such is the unpredictability of this beautiful game; it always has a way of proving it’s fickle at the top for whoever wears the crown.

And that came into full realisation in the 60th minute after Rhodes capitalised from a Mothobi Mvala mistake in defence.

Mosa Lebusa made a back-pass to his central defence partner Mvala, who was, incredibly, dispossessed by Rhodes, who raced towards goal and slotted a shot past a diving Williams.

Rhodes didn’t only change the event from a party to a funeral, but he had the celebration to back it up: Making a “shut-up” sign before the home crowd.

Sundowns appeared to have time to recover and earn the Invincibles record as Mokwena made a host of changes, including withdrawing the culprit Mvala.

But that elusive goal never came, subjecting Sundowns to yet another “so close, yet so far season” after having lost only one game – to Kaizer Chiefs – last season as well.