Second half goals from Sthembiso Ngcobo and Siphiwe Tshabalala was just reward for an excellent performance after the break – and for coaching staff of Doctor Khumalo and Ace Khuse who had come in for lots of stick.
Johan Neeskens surprised by starting with Teko Modise and Elias Pelembe on the bench, but it didn’t seem to hamper The Brazilians too much as they quickly got into their stride.
Baring an early chance for Sthembiso Ngcobo, Sundowns had the better of the opening exchanges and should have opened the scoring when Lebohang Mokoena picked out Themba Zwane with a pin-point cross, only for the youngster to fluff his lines and spurn the golden opportunity.
Slowly but surely Chiefs started to find their feet and after Bernard Parker had a shot from a tight angle blocked, a moment of controversy followed on the half-hour mark.
Referee Daniel Bennett awarded a soft free-kick just outside the area for Wayne Sandilands’ supposed foul on Lucky Baloyi, though replays suggested the incident happened well inside the 18-yard box.
Parker misdirected a header shortly afterwards before Sundowns regained the upper-hand for the remainder of the half, though they were limited to long-range efforts from Hlompo Kekana, Walter Maponyane and Mokoena.
Reneilwe Letsholonyane came on at the start of the second half, and he proved to be the tonic Chiefs needed.
Baring an early chance for Mokoena which Itumeleng Khune saved with his legs, it was all Amakhosi, who took the lead on 58 minutes courtesy of a Wayne Sandilands howler.
The goalkeeper ran out to clear a long pass from Tshabalala, but completely missed the ball, which dropped to Ngcobo. Even then Siyanda Xulu still had a chance to clear, but the Chiefs striker got the better of the young defender and slotted into an empty net.
Five minutes later and it should have been 2-0 – Chiefs went on the counter-attack and Tshabalala played in Bernard Parker, but Sandilands redeemed himself with an excellent reflex save.
With 20 minutes to go ‘Shabba’ himself was denied by another sharp Sandilands save, but there was to be no denying the dreadlocked midfielder with two minutes remaining as he ran onto a long ball and found the back of the net off the inside of the post.
The result leave Sundowns three points behind Pirates, with a tough Tshwane Derby against SuperSport United still to come.
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