Mamelodi Sundowns beat Maritzburg, open four-point lead

Mamelodi Sundowns have opened a four-point lead at the top of the DStv Premiership after they defeated Maritzburg United 2-0 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The Brazilians still have a game in hand over nearest chaser AmaZulu and appear to have put themselves firmly back on course for an unprecedented fourth successive Premier Soccer League title.

Goals from Ricardo Nascimento and Gift Motupa saw ‘Downs back up their impressive win over Orlando Pirates this past weekend, and allows them a little breathing room on the domestic scene, with a massive CAF Champions League quarterfinal against Al Ahly – and former mentor Pitso Mosimane – just around the corner.

The Team of Choice, meanwhile, drop to 13th place on goal difference and remain just one point clear of the relegation playoff zone.

Sundowns thought they had claimed the lead in the fifth minute when Mosa Lebusa bundled a ball home at the far post after Aubrey Modiba’s cross had passed through the six-yard area, but the offside flag was raised.

The hosts soon suffered an injury blow when Themba Zwane pulled up with a hamstring issue and was replaced by Promise Mkhuma as early as the 12th minute.

A short while later Peter Shalulile hit the woodwork twice in quick succession, with a low shot which smacked the near post followed by a header from a corner kick which was tipped onto the crossbar by United goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt.

Either side of the half-hour mark, Maritzburg’s Bongokuhle Hlongwane had two great chances which he failed to capitalise on, stabbing over from close range under pressure from goalkeeper Denis Onyango and sending a header just wide from Thabiso Kutumela’s cross.

The Brazilians were soon awarded a penalty, with Gift Motupa doing well to out-muscle Clayton Daniels and surge down the left of the 18-yard area, before a tangle of legs brought the striker down. Ricardo Nascimento tucked home from the spot in the 39th minute to see the hosts 1-0 up.

Sundowns continued to look the better team through the second half and were finally rewarded with a second goal in the 71st minute: substitute Mothobi Mvala showed a delicate touch to tee up Motupa, who fired a low shot into the bottom corner to effectively end the game as a contest.

The hosts comfortably saw out the remainder of the match to secure all three points and move one step closer to the title. Sundowns will be back in DStv Premiership action on Sunday 9 May with a match away to TS Galaxy, while Maritzburg’s next clash is at home to Golden Arrows on Tuesday 11 May.

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 2 (Nascimento 39’ pen, Motupa 71’)

Maritzburg United 0

Sundowns: D. Onyango, Lebusa, Coetzee, Nascimento, Morena, Jali, Mkhulise (Mvala 62’), Modiba (Lakay 75’), Zwane (Mkhuma 12’ [Kapinga 76’]), Shalulile, Motupa (Affonso 76’)

Maritzburg: Englehardt, Rae, Allie, Daniels, Morgan (Hlubi 60’), Tlolane (Hachi 72’), Stevic (Shandu 72’), Graham, Claasen, Hlongwane, Kutumela (Ntshangase 90’)