Sundowns claim Nedbank Cup glory and secure treble

Mamelodi Sundowns claimed a dramatic 2-1 victory over Marumo Gallants to win the Nedbank Cup final at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Saturday evening and secure a treble of domestic trophies.

Thapelo Morena scored right at the death against a 10-man Gallants to give the Brazilians a 2-1 victory after extra time, and add the Nedbank Cup to their MTN8 and DStv Premiership triumphs in 2021-22.

Bahlabane Ba Ntwa put up a spirited effort as underdogs in looking to defend their Nedbank Cup title (won as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila a year ago), but ultimately they were outgunned by the relentless winning machine that Sundowns have become.

Sundowns offered a first threat in the fifth minute, with Gaston Sirino sending a long-range strike on target, only to be denied by a fine save from Gallants goalkeeper Washington Arubi.

The Brazilians continued to fire warning shots – and executed a fine high press to prevent Gallants from finding their rhythm – with Sirino finding the net on 21 minutes with a low effort, but the referee had already blown his whistle for a foul in the preceding phase of play.

Sundowns’ pressure paid off on 33 minutes and saw them claim the lead. Sirino stole possession high up the field and crossed from the left by-line, with Arubi’s punch clear going only as far as Peter Shalulile, who somehow managed to chip an effort beyond the ‘keeper and a defender on the line despite almost tripping on his own feet.

Gallants offered little in attack but did create a fine chance on 40 minutes when Thato Khiba provided a fine cross from the right to pick out Katlego Otladisa, but the attacker couldn’t keep his effort down.

Sundowns, meanwhile, were forced into an injury change a few minutes before halftime when Brian Onyango succumbed to a knock and was replaced by Mosa Lebusa.

The second half had the team in yellow dropping off in the intensity of their press, which allowed Gallants more time and space on the ball.

Bahlabane Ba Ntwa grew in confidence as the second stanza wore on, though Sundowns looked to reassert control with the introduction of Themba Zwane to their midfield on 65 minutes, and they almost immediately had chances through Lebohang Maboe and Neo Maema which flashed narrowly off target.

Gallants soon opted for an attacking change when they withdrew defender Lebogang Mabotja and introduced Sede Dion – a swap which paid dividends on 76 minutes when the striker equalised.

Celimpilo Ngema provided a cross from the right which was flicked on by Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo and headed home at close range – with more than a hint of offside about it – by Dion for 1-1.

Shortly thereafter Otladisa almost caught ‘Downs goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene off his line with a lob which travelled narrowly wide of the target, as a confident Gallants sniffed the chance for a victory inside regulation time.

However, the end of 90 minutes had the teams still level at 1-1, and Gallants started extra time on the back foot, with Sundowns pushing forward and building pressure in attack after rediscovering their passing rhythm.

Under pressure, Gallants resorted to some cynical fouls and Ndlondlo picked up two yellow cards in relatively quick succession, earning himself a dismissal with just over 10 minutes of extra time to play.

Sundowns, with a numerical advantage, laid siege to Gallants’ goal and were finally rewarded in the 120th minute, as Zwane – in a shooting position – showed great composure to pick out Thapelo Morena, who calmly stroked the ball into the net and secured yet more glory for the Brazilians.

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) (1) 2 (Shalulile 33’, Morena 120’)

Marumo Gallants (0) (1) 1 (Dion 76’) – After extra time

Sundowns: Mweene, Mudau (Safranko 113’), Kekana, B.Onyango (Lebusa 42’), Lakay, Jali, Maema (Ralani 90+2’), Maboe (Morena 90+2’), Kutumela (Mkhulise 65’), Sirino (Zwane 65’), Shalulile.

Gallants: Arubi, Khiba, Gumede, Nonyane, Mabotja (Dion 73’ [Manaka 114’]), Molangoane, Timm, Ngema (Kumalo 109’), Otladisa (Makudubela 89’), Ndlondlo, Sibeko