Sundowns suffer title blow as Brazilian Nascimento sent off

Captain Hlompho Kekana and Nascimento, from a penalty, put Sundowns ahead in each half and Rushine de Reuck and Thabiso Kutumela, with a brilliant strike, notched the equalisers.

FILE: Sundowns coach and former South Africa forward Pitso Mosimane. Picture:  @Masandawana/Twitter.

PRETORIA - Mamelodi Sundowns had Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento sent off and lost the lead twice in a 2-2 draw with Maritzburg United Friday to dent hopes of a third straight South African league title.

Captain Hlompho Kekana and Nascimento, from a penalty, put Sundowns ahead in each half and Rushine de Reuck and Thabiso Kutumela, with a brilliant strike, notched the equalisers.

Just before the 71st-minute dismissal of Nascimento following a second yellow card, Anele Ngcongca missed a simple chance to put Sundowns ahead a third time.

Sundowns have failed to win a Premiership match since the season resumed on August 11 behind closed doors in Gauteng province after a five-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This was their third draw and, together with a shock loss to Cape Town City, leaves the 2016 African champions five points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs with five rounds remaining.

"We will never surrender," was the defiant message from Sundowns coach and former South Africa forward Pitso Mosimane after the latest setback, at Lucas Moripe Stadium near Pretoria.

"There have been a lot of twists and turns in this title race and I expect some more before the championship is decided.

"It is crucial that we keep trying, that we keep believing. I made seven changes to the team that started against Cape Town and was pleased with the effort."

BOUNCE BACK

Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler, another former international, was happy with a point as his team bounced back after a woeful showing when losing to lowly Black Leopards last Sunday.

"Obviously, we came here to win, but we showed character to come from behind twice and our second goal from Thabiso must be a candidate for the best of the season.

"Against Leopards, our defence was atrocious and we did not compete in midfield. Tonight, there was a huge improvement in both areas."

Chiefs face Stellenbosch Sunday and Sundowns meet Golden Arrows Monday before the only two realistic title hopefuls clash on August 27 in Soweto in a potential title decider.

Meanwhile, Bidvest Wits rose one place to fourth by scoring twice after half-time to defeat second-last AmaZulu 2-0 in Soweto through goals from Rowan Human and Namibian Deon Hotto.

Leopards, who were bottom of the 16-club table when the season restarted, climbed two places to 13th with a brace from Zambian Mwape Musonda bringing a 2-1 win over Arrows.

Both teams converted harshly awarded first half penalties for handball in Johannesburg with Zimbabwean Knox Mutizwa putting Arrows ahead and Musonda levelling 10 minutes later.

Musonda, winner of the Premiership Golden Boot award last season with 16 goals, snatched his eighth of this campaign two minutes into stoppage time by reacting quickest to a rebound.

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