Sundowns pip Pirates in Orlando

Mamelodi Sundowns survived a late surge from Orlando Pirates to move nine points clear atop the Absa Premiership standings following a 2-1 win over the Sea Robbers at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Sundowns were in control at the break thanks to goals from Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat, but Pirates came out firing after the interval and were the better team in the second stanza.

Mpho Makola's stunning free-kick, though, was a mere consolation in the end.

A lot of talk heading into the clash was whether Pirates would be able to contain the deadly attacking trio of Castro, Billiat and Keagan Dolly (CBD), after 19 minutes those questions were answered.

Denis Onyango did well to stifle an early threat from Thamsanqa Gabuza, but 'Downs high-pressing game quickly reaped rewards as Dolly ran onto a raking pass from Hlompho Kekana only to steer his effort wide of goal on 16 minutes.

The Brazilians found the opener three minutes later. CBD all involved: Billiat with the defence splitting pass, Castro with the expert first-time finish into the side of the net, leaving Brighton Mhlongo rooted to his spot.

Pitso Mosimane's men were threatening with every attack and doubled their lead through Billiat in the 37th minute. After Dolly saw his initial effort saved by Mhlongo, Billiat pounced to volley home his eighth goal of the season via the inside of both posts.

It was almost 3-0 in second-half stoppage time, Castro with successive chances for the visitors. First, Ayanda Gcaba did well to deny the Colombian before Dolly played a delightful chip over the Pirates defensive-line, the striker controlled before firing his stinging effort just wide.

Sundowns looked most likely to score next with Mhlongo forced into a world class save to deny Themba Zwane form close range in the 66th minute - Pirates though would make for an exciting end to the game through Makola.

The Bafana Bafana midfielder driving a perfect free-kick over the Sundowns wall and into the corner of the net on 71 minutes, Onyango never stood a chance.

Pirates ended the game on the front foot with Mosimane forced to close up shop to see out the rest of the encounter unscathed, and that is just what they managed to do.

The win stretches 'Downs unbeaten run in all competitions to 19-games while Pirates remain seventh on the log standings.

Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Makola 71')

Mamelodi Sundowns (2) 2 (Castro 19' Billiat 37')

Teams:

Orlando Pirates: Mhlongo; Nyauza (Motupa 88'), Gyimah, Gcaba, Phungwayo - Sarr, Mugerwa (Masuku 46') - Makola, Rakhale, Myeni (Majoro 65'), Gabuza

Mamelodi Sundowns: Onyango; Mbekile, Arendse, Nthethe, Langerman - Kekana, Mashaba (S.Zwane 54') - Modise (T.Zwane 54') - Billiat, Dolly, Castro (Bangaly 74')