Free State Stars v Mamelodi Sundowns Match Report, 11/05/2019, PSL | Goal.com - 4 minutes read
A solitary strike by substitute Phakamani Mahlambi proved enough to not only give Mamelodi Sundowns the three points, but a ninth PSL title, while Free State Stars suffered automatic relegation.
Sundowns had only one objective on their mind and that was lifting the league title as they visited Goble Park.
Sundowns were hoping for three points as they opened up a two-point advantage over closest rivals Orlando Pirates in midweek, while Ea Lla Koto were fighting for survival, giving them extra motivation to go in search of a win.
This meant Stars could not just sit back, and Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane looked to exploit their intent using the likes of Gaston Sirino and Themba Zwane alongside top scorer Lebohang Maboe in order to trouble the scoreline.
In addition, the inclusion of Rivaldo Coetzee added sturdiness to the midfield allowing Hlompho Kekana to roam further upfield while keeping Paulus Masehe, who was playing in his final PSL match at bay.
Sundowns’ first real chance fell to Maboe as he got on the end of a pinpoint Sirino cross, but the 24-year-old was unable to direct his header goalward.
Sundowns were showing just why they had one of the league’s hottest attacks as they were determined to add to their 39 goals scored this season and Kekana lashed an effort at the Stars goal from inside the box which was kept out by Badra Ali Sangare.
Although Stars were defending resolutely and threatened going forward, it was the away side who enjoyed the better of the first half chances.
With 22 minutes played, Zwane then came close to breaking the deadlock as he curled an effort just wide following a quick break.
This was before Sirino himself had a crack of his own which tested the Stars keeper who was up to the task.
It was certainly not one-way traffic though as Sibusiso Hlubi forced Onyango into a solid save from a set piece.
Hlubi along with Yusuf Jappie were looking Stars’ brightest players and had it not been for Onyango, who produced a save to deny the former, the scoreline could have been a lot different.
With the clash approaching the break, a packed Goble Park was being entertained by end-to-end football with both sides probing for a goal.
However, Sundowns were then dealt a major blow before the interval as Sirino was stretchered off with an injury. This saw Mahlambi introduced, and he certainly had big boots to fill considering that Sirino had created eight goals in the league this season.
But Mahlambi’s introduction proved inspired as the speedster netted just before the break putting Sundowns ahead with his fourth league goal of the season before the break.
With Sundowns heading into the interval, they knew they were just 45 minutes away from the league title, while Stars were eyeing relegation.
This saw Stars come out more determined in the second half and looked to press Sundowns from the front.
Sundowns had only scored 17.9% of their goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, which explained their pragmatic start as they were content to soak up the pressure and pounce on the counter-attack.
Stars though eventually had the ball in the back of the net, but Eleazar Rodgers who came on after the interval saw his effort ruled out as Hlubi was adjudged to have handled the ball.
With Stars throwing bodies upfront they were leaving themselves vulnerable, and Maboe should have done better with his opportunity as his toepoke flew just wide.
Meanwhile, a mistake at the back almost saw Sundowns grab an insurance goal, but a fantastic last-ditch tackle from the experienced Rooi Mahamutsa denied Mahlambi his second of the day.
With every moment that past, the fan’s expectations were beginning to rise- leading the volume to increase inside the stadium creating for an electrifying atmosphere.
Despite Stars throwing everything at Sundowns, Mosimane’s men showed their experience as they ran down the clock and jubilant scenes erupted following the final whistle.