Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | A disastrous mistake by Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Virgil Vries gifted Mamelodi Sundowns a 2-1 victory this weekend in a high-profile South African Premiership showdown.
Namibian Vries came too far off his line and a seemingly aimless 81st-minute long pass from Lyle Lakay bounced over him, allowing Lebohang Maboe to tap home the winner.
Liberian Anthony Laffor had given Sundowns a third-minute lead that Zimbabwean Willard Katsande cancelled out with a header 11 minutes later.
Tearful Vries, deputising for injured first choice Itumeleng Khune, was consoled by team-mates after a match Chiefs deserved to win at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
“We were the better side and should have won”, said Chiefs’ recently-appointed German coach Ernst Middendorp.
The fortunate victory was a timely boost for defending champions Sundowns, who are lagging behind in the title race and begin their CAF Champions League group campaign against Lobi Stars in Nigeria Friday.
They are fourth in the South African Premiership, eight points behind leaders Bidvest Wits with three matches in hand.
“Our winning goal came from unfortunate error by Chiefs’ goalkeeper, but that is part of football,” said Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.
Wits recovered from conceding a 43-second goal and being outplayed for much of the opening half to win 2-1 away to lowly Free State Stars in central town Bethlehem.
Harris Tchilimbou from Congo Brazzaville nodded Stars ahead, Zimbabwean Terrence Dzvukamanja levelled before half-time before Elias Pelembe from Mozambique headed home 73rd-minute winner.
“We really had to fight for those three points with a new team that is learning about me while I learn about them,” said Wits coach Gavin Hunt.
Former African champions Orlando Pirates remain second, but fell five points behind Wits after drawing 2-2 at mid-table Highlands Park.
A capacity 10,000 crowd witnessed a thriller in which promoted Highlands twice led during the second half only to be pegged back by resilient Pirates.
Namibian Peter Shalulile scored Highlands’ second goal and Zimbabwean Kudakwashe Mahachi grabbed Pirates’ second equaliser nine minutes from time.
“My boys gave it a real go, putting their hearts and souls into everything they did while showing no fear,” said proud Highlands coach Owen da Gama.
Serbia-born Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic said: “We had to take chances having fallen behind twice, including reducing our back four to just two defenders. The gamble paid off.”