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Sundowns suffer another title blow after draw with Highlands Park

Soweto (South Africa) (AFP) – Mamelodi Sundowns wasted a second chance within four days to move within one point of South African Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs when held 1-1 by Highlands Park Friday. 

Namibian Peter Shalulile raised his league goal tally for the season to 13 when he put Highlands ahead after six minutes at Dobsonville Stadium in chilly Soweto.

Sphelele Mkhulise levelled on 40 minutes with a header that took a slight deflection as it flew past veteran Zimbabwean goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini.

Defending champions Sundowns dominated possession and territory in the second half but seldom looked like winning a match staged behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, record nine-time champions Sundowns squandered their first chance to close the gap behind Chiefs when drawing 0-0 with Orlando Pirates at the same venue.

“We are struggling to play our usual fluid football,” admitted Sundowns coach and former South Africa forward Pitso Mosimane.

“I do not want to use the pitch as an excuse, but it is bumpy in places and very dry. We love to keep the ball on the ground so these conditions do affect us.” 

Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama hailed his team, who defended resolutely and were always dangerous when counterattacking.

– ‘We have to be happy’ – 

“Our last match before the COVID-19 shutdown was on March 14 so we have to be happy to hold a club chasing a treble this season.

“Although Sundowns had much more of the ball we had as many chances to win the match as they did, with Peter (Shalulile) always a threat.”

Chiefs have 49 points and Sundowns 46 with seven rounds remaining in a league season that resumed this week after being suspended in March due to the pandemic.

The two favourites for the title are followed by Orlando Pirates (41 points), SuperSport United (40) and Bidvest Wits and Maritzburg United (39 each).

While Chiefs are seeking a first trophy in five seasons, Sundowns have their eyes on a treble having won the League Cup and reached the FA Cup final.

Earlier, Cape Town City eased their relegation worries with a 1-0 victory over Chippa United in a scrappy clash of bottom-half clubs at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

The lone goal came on 17 minutes when careless Chippa defending allowed Fargie Lakay to cross for Kermit Erasmus to nod past Mlungisi Mazibuko.

Goalkeeper Mazibuko, who slipped as he tried to reach the ball, was making his Premiership debut at the age of 28.

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