21 June 2007

South Africa: Sundowns Fall in Trance to Ronaldinho

Pretoria — Mamelodi Sundowns were just 12 minutes away from a famous victory over Spanish powerhouses Barcelona when a bit of Ronaldinho magic unravelled the home side at Loftus Versveld stadium last night, writes Mninawa Ntloko.

A goal from Surprise Moriri in the opening minutes of this friendly encounter had given Sundowns a dream start to a match that many had predicted would be extremely difficult for the domestic premiership champions.

And they seemed to be cruising towards a deserved victory when Ronaldinho reminded the jam-packed stadium why he is widely regarded as a football genius.

First, the irrepressible two-time world footballer of the year delivered a teasing free kick from the edge of the Sundowns penalty area that scrambling goalkeeper Calvin Marlin could only punch out of the box.

But the ball only floated as far as the feet of a lurking Santiago Ezquerro who fired the equaliser past a bemused Marlin.

Sundowns did not recover after surrendering their lead so tamely and Ronaldinho took advantage by creating the winner almost out of nothing.

The Brazilian showcased the trickery that has been a trademark of his game and while the hesitant Sundowns players remained spellbound, he delivered a dream pass that Marc Crosas gratefully accepted and put beyond Marlin.

Sundowns were a beaten team at that point and the game eventually stuttered to a 2-1 victory for Barcelona.

Sundowns coach Gordon Igesund will wake up this morning and reflect on what could have been as his charges should have beaten their more esteemed opposition.

Besides stunning the visitors with the opening goal of this match in the first minute, Sundowns created so many chances during the first half that they should have gone into the half time break with a comfortable lead.

Barcelona seemed sluggish at that point and even Ronaldinho was struggling to keep up with the pace after arriving in SA only a day before the match.

But the Spanish side seemed to play with a bit more urgency in the second half and displayed glimpses of the form that has earned them a reputation as one of the best clubs in the world.

Sundowns cannot be disheartened by this defeat as they put on the kind of display that will have won them many fans.

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