Sundowns ease past Students

Benedict Vilakazi netted with a deflected effort before Lerato Chabangu doubled their advantage, with Ashraf Hendricks pulling one back for the Students, who also saw midfielder Fabrice Rodrigues red carded in the second half.

The first half was a scrappy affair in tough weather conditions. All it takes is a bit of rain and some howling wind to make a football match dull.

The game started brightly enough with Sundowns attacking down the right flank in the eight minute with some slick on the ground passing before the ball was cut back to Jorge Acuna who let fly with his boot, but he hit the ball high and wide of the goal.

Only a minute later Clifford Mulenga was on the attack for the Clever Boys, cutting and turning in the middle of the park before letting off a shot from the 18 yard box that was deflected for a corner.

The Brazilians' class was evident as they passed the ball around nicely but they failed to take advantage of their superior ground play. Wits, on the other hand, applied a different tactic, starting with Dale Studzinski upfront and using him as a target man; as the tallest man on the field he was certainly causing problems for the Sundowns defence when the long ball from the back was played towards him.

In 14th minute Studzinski headed a long ball on for Mulenga, who proceeded to beat a couple of players before firing a shot over the crossbar.

The best chance of the half fell to the Brazilians in the 16th minute when they hit on the counter attack; it was three Sundowns strikers verse two Wits defenders, but the Tshwane giants wasted their opportunity passing the ball between one another and no one taking the shot, which allowed the Students to get back in their numbers and clear the danger. Sundowns looked like a side under pressure as their stars were unsure of what to do in front of goal.

It was about this time when the rain started and the wind picked up which consequently led to the rest of the half becoming a cagy affair. Sifiso Myeni did break down the left flank in the 26th minute for Wits before cutting back inside and letting of a ferocious shot straight at Calvin Marlin who punched the ball away.

The last chance before the half time whistle fell to Lerato Chabangu in the 38th minute who made some space for himself on the edge of the big box before turning to get off his shot, but Energy Murambadoro made a comfortable save diving to his left.

The rain subsided at the start of the second half and the Brazilians were on a full out attack to turn their season around. Katlego Mphela would have opened the scoring for Sundowns in the first minute after the break had it not been for a goal saving tackle by Ashraf Hendricks. Mphela broke through the Wits defense and was one-on-one with the goalie before Hendricks made a sliding tackle in front of him to dislodge him of the ball.

However, despite the Clever Boys' stubborn resistance at the back and their impressive defensive record this season, in an ironic twist of fate, their own defender Neil Winstanley was the first to hit the back of the Wits net in the 2008/09 Absa Premiership season. In the 55th minute Chabangu pressed forward and cut in from the right flank dribbling a couple of players before trying to play a one-two with Benedict Vilakazi; unfortunately for the Students the ball ricocheted off Winstanley into the back of his own net.

Only seven minutes later and Chabangu nearly doubled Sundowns' lead from a set piece on the edge of the 18 yard box. Chabangu struck an expertly hit free-kick that had the keeper beaten but the ball hit the crossbar.

Wits tried to push up field to find the equalizer and the Brazilians looked more and more dangerous on the counter attack. Vilakazi made the Students pay in the 73rd minute when he ran onto a beautiful Chabangu pass and made no mistake from 12 yards out as he slipped the ball past Murambadoro.

Studzinski had the chance to salvage some pride for Wits when he got a free header from a Mulenga cross, but he did poorly to head the ball wide when he should of at least hit the target. The Clever Boys continued to press forward looking for a goal and continued to look vulnerable at the back. Once again Sundowns' slick passing and quick counter-attack put Dario Monteiro though on goal but he failed to punish Wits' defence as his shot hit the side netting.

The game ended on a bad note, however, after a flair-up between Jorge Acuna and Rodrigues resulted in Rodrigues being sent off for raising his hand. A number of other players went into the referee's book as he lost the plot before he blew the final whistle.

Wits did manage to score a consolation goal in the 94th minute when Studzinski headed on a ball inside the penalty area for Hendricks to pounce on to and slot past Marlin, 2-1.