TS Galaxy and Sundowns’ clash at Mbombela Stadium ends in draw

With the hosts vying for a spot in the top four of the DStv Premiership for the first time, TS Galaxy and Mamelodi Sundowns locked horns in a tense battle at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday May 21, which ultimately culminated in frustration for The Rockets.

While the league title had already been wrapped up and gone the way of Mamelodi Sundowns, there was a lot for TS Galaxy to play for on Tuesday evening, May 21, who had the chance to lay a hand on a spot in the African competition for next season.

Already in fourth place in the DStv Premiership, which is the last spot on the log that qualifies for the 2024/25 CAF Confederations Cup, The Rockets were level on points with the fifth-placed SuperSport United prior to the Masandawana encounter. A win at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday night would have all but secured fourth, owing to the fact that they have a better goal difference than SuperSport United.

But in order to achieve this, TS Galaxy faced a mountain to climb. They’d need to beat a Mamelodi Sundowns team that has only lost once in domestic competitions this season, when they were knocked out of the Telkom Knockout by none other than The Rockets themselves.

Puso Dithejane (on the right) celebrates his goal with TS Galaxy teammates. > Photos: Blake Linder

Kick-off at Mbombela Stadium was at 19:30, and a healthy turnout of support meant the crowd was alive and in full voice from the get-go. The Rockets quickly set out on their objective, creating the first chance of the game in only the second minute. The game continued to roar to life in the opening exchanges, before settling into a more relaxed groove by the second portion of the first half.

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TS Galaxy and Mamelodi Sundowns had the same number of shots at goal in the first half, but the hosts demanded more of visiting goalkeeper and South African captain Ronwen Williams. All three of their shots were on target, while only one of Sundowns’ three required saving by TS Galaxy goalkeeper Fiacre Ntwari. They also had a goal ruled out for being offside, but no one could break the deadlock.

Lindokuhle Mbatha. > Photos: Blake Linder

This meant the score was 0-0 when the whistle blew to signal half-time, with neither side carrying any significant momentum. The first chance of the second half went the way of the visitors, but it amounted to nothing more than a snap shot from Tashreeq Matthews soaring over the crossbar.

From there, TS Galaxy had the bulk of the scoring chances, drawing save after save from Williams and block after block from his defenders. A flurry of chances for The Rockets in the final quarter of the game eventually culminated in them breaking the deadlock in the 78th minute, courtesy of a perfectly placed shot by Puso Dithejane.

Kamogelo Sebelebele was in fine form against Sundowns, putting on another great defensive display. > Photos: Blake Linder

The shot rebounded into the goal off the left-hand upright, narrowly getting past Williams. Despite conceding and now trailing the game, the Sundowns players did not panic and instead stayed deadly calm, almost as if they knew a chance would come their way soon enough.

And it did. Peter Shalulile capitalised on a lapse in concentration by the TS Galaxy defence to slot home a near-post header, to draw Sundowns level at 1-1 in the 85th minute. Little else happened in the remainder of the game, and it ended at one goal apiece, much to the dismay of those in TS Galaxy colours.

Mamelodi Sundowns players salute the fans prior to the start of the game. > Photos: Blake Linder

The Rockets are now only one point ahead of SuperSport United going into the final day on Saturday May 25. They take on Polokwane City away, while Matsatsantsa faces the Orlando Pirates in Soweto. However, either Sekhukhune United or Cape Town City could also sneak into fourth place if all of the other sides lose on the final day.

It is everything to play for, and the battle for the final place in the African competition is set to be a thrilling one.

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