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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Super-sub Mendieta wins it late for Sundowns

Sundowns remain 11 points clear of second-placed Stellenbosch.

Mamelodi Sundowns left it late to claim all three points against relegation-threatened side Richards Bay with a narrow 1-0 win in a DStv Premiership match at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.

The Brazilians were below-par on the night and it took Junior Mendieta to save the day with a late winner from a header in injury time from a Sphelele Mkhulise cross into the box.

After 22 games, Richards Bay remain on 14 points, two ahead of basement dwellers Cape Town Spurs who have a game in hand. On the other hand, Sundowns moved to 49 points after 19 games. They are 11 points ahead of second-placed Stellenbosch FC who beat Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 at FNB Stadium.

With one eye on Friday’s game against Young Africans, Rulani Mokwena was expected to reshuffle his pack. However, no one could have predicted that he would field a completely new starting XI.

He rested his trusted soldiers for the second leg of the Caf Champions League quarterfinal battle against Yanga where they have to win after playing to a goalless draw in Tanzania last Saturday.

There was nothing to write home about in the first half in Tshwane. It was a dull 45 minutes with little goalmouth action. None of the players put up their hand for a starting berth against Yanga. It was more of the same in the first 10 minutes second stanza with Mokwena cutting a frustrated figure on the touchline with his team struggling to find their passing game.

Triple Change

The 37-year-old coach made a triple change on the hour mark by bringing on Neo Maema, Lesiba Nku and Junior Mendieta in an effort to inject some much needed energy into the game. Gaston Sirino, Matias Esquivel and Tashreeq Matthews were recalled to the bench.

Maema nearly broke the deadlock late in the game but Salim Magoola dived low to his left to make an important save that could prove to be crucial for their survival hopes.

It was a gallant performance from the KwaZulu-Natal based side. They defended well until Mendieta scored a last minute winner. A draw would have been a fair reflection of the game and the Masandawana faithful will be hoping for a better showing in the champions league at the same venue.

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