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Best of the weekend’s soccer action: Nedbank Cup shocks, emerging Man United and Messi Magic

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Nicholus Lukhubeni of Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila challenged by Aubrey Modiba and Sphelele Mkhulise of Mamelodi Sundowns. (Photo by Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix/Gallo Images)

The Nedbank Cup produced the shock of the weekend as Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) upset Mamelodi SundownsManchester United closed the gap in the Premier League title race, and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scored a stunning trademark solo effort.

Here Sport24 looks at some of the best highlights of the weekend’s soccer action.

History beckons in Nedbank Cup

Newly established side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) produced the upset of the weekend by beating the invincible Mamelodi Sundowns in a Nedbank Cup semi-final clash after a penalty shoot-out. Club captain Hlompho Kekana missed Masandawana’s crucial spot-kick, which handed TTM the opportunity which Thembisani Nevhulamba slotted home to send his side into the competition’s final. By overcoming the odds to beat Sundowns, history is now made, with Chippa United being the other team to compete in the final. Both teams now have a shot at lifting a piece of silverware for the first time.

Washington Arubi heroics secures TTM final berth

The blueprint to defeating the seemingly impregnable Mamelodi Sundowns seems to have finally been revealed. All that is needed is to have your goalkeeper produce one of the games of his life with gravity-defying saves. Washington Arubi pulled off some remarkable point-blank saves to deny Sundowns during regulation and extra time. Before then keeping out their opponents’ all-important fifth spot-kick. Sundowns, who had 63% possession, also had a remarkable 10 shots on target, all of which the impressive Arubi kept out as TTM advanced to their first-ever Cup final.

Emerging Man United hit stride to go marching on

Manchester United pulled off an important 3-1 win over a tricky Burnley side on Sunday thanks to goals by Edinson Cavani and a brace by Mason Greenwood. With the win, Man United narrowed the gap to their city rivals, Manchester City to eight points with six rounds of fixtures remaining. With Cavani leading the attack, United seem to finally have a dimension to their frontline that they’ve seemed to have missed in recent years. A natural goalscorer as the Uruguayan attacker has now scored in each of the last three fixtures. Could the title race door, which seemed firmly slammed shut, now be opened just a crack?

La Liga title race wide open

Keeping up with the theme of title races, the battle for the La Liga crown seems to be heading down to the wire in Spain. Three teams are all in contention with just five points separating Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona, who have a game in hand. Real Madrid dropped valuable points over the weekend after being held to a goalless draw by Getafe. With seven rounds of fixtures remaining, Atletico Madrid occupy first place (70 points) followed by Real Madrid (67 points) and Barcelona in third (65 points) with a game in hand. Atletico in their remaining games face a trip away to Barcelona. Real Madrid seem to hold the easiest run-in but will still need to contest a Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. As Barcelona will be aiming to overtake both teams above them with a chance to directly dent Atletico’s title run.

Messi Magic secures Copa del Rey

We’ve saved the best for last with Lionel Messi yet again producing the moment of the weekend’s soccer action. The Argentine scored a brace as Barcelona thrashed Atletico 4-0 to lift the Copa Del Rey trophy. In what has become a Messi trademark, the diminutive attacker picked up the ball in his own half before dribbling past several defenders and slotting the ball home in a sublime solo effort. If countryman and the late Diego Maradona made famous solo goals for left-footed players, Messi has perfected it. The Barcelona captain produced the feat remarkably a high number of times.

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