PRETORIA, March 14 – Mamelodi Sundowns defeated EC Bees 2-1 in a Nedbank Cup last-16 clash played at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Pretoria team won through to the quarter-finals of the competition, but they never had it all their own way as they were made to sweat for victory by the plucky Eastern Cape ABC Motsepe League side.
Sundowns were expected to dominate possession and territory against their lower division opponents, and that was the way it turned out. They were in their stride early on, with Jeremie Brockie going close with a header.
But Sundowns soon discovered the difficulty of playing against teams who sit back and soak up the pressure – they are always very dangerous on the counter. And it was on one such break that Bees took a surprise lead with a goal by Joseph Chikila.
Stunned, Sundowns had no choice but to inject greater urgency into their game. They created numerous scoring opportunities, with Thokozani Sekotloung, Brockie and George Lebese all failing to make the most of their chances.
The Pretoria club was then forced into an early change when Anele Ngcongca picked up an injury and was replaced by Thapelo Morena in the 32nd minute.
Bees, though, hung in with great determination and showed fantastic resolve in defence in the face of relentless pressure. Just before the break, Sundowns had two more inviting opportunities for Anthony Laffor and Lebese, but, on both occasions, they were denied by fine saves from Bees goalkeeper Khanya Mini.
But it was only a matter of time before Sundowns’ dominance paid dividends. Seconds into the second half, it was 1-1 when Hlompho Kekana unleashed a trademark long-range effort that cannoned into the net.
With parity restored, Sundowns went all out in search of a winner – Kekana tried his luck from range again, Laffor skewed a shot wide and Brockie was denied by a good tackle in the penalty area.
The goal had to come, however, and Sundowns duly netted the winner in the 75th minute when Brockie produced a superb pass for Morena to steer the ball into the net.