Mamelodi Sundowns bounced back from their surprise Telkom Knockout exit last weekend with a 3-1 league win over Free State Stars at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday evening.
The result – inspired by two goals from Gaston Sirino – took the Brazilians to third place on the Absa Premiership log. Pitso Mosimane’s side are five points adrift of leaders Orlando Pirates, but have three games in hand.
Ea Lla Koto, meanwhile, have now won just one of their last six league matches but remain just inside the top eight bracket.
Sundowns claimed the lead as early as the 12th minute, with Jeremy Brockie finally breaking his drought. A right-wing cross from Lebohang Maboe deflected off a defender and fell kindly for the New Zealand striker, who crashed home a left-footed volley to make it 1-0.
Gaston Sirino doubled the Brazilians’ lead with a well-finished penalty in the 25th minute – the spot kick had been awarded after a clumsy challenge from Bengali Keita on Aubrey Ngoma.
The Uruguayan netted a second just two minutes later to make it 3-0. He showed his determination to win the ball wide on Sundowns’ right, made his way infield and then struck home a beautiful left-footed shot from just outside the ‘D’ of the box.
Stars pulled a goal back in the 37th minute, with Harris Tchilimbou providing a classy finish to turn home Judas Moseamedi’s cut-back from the right by-line, after Sundowns were guilty of some sloppy defending.
The Free State side went further on the attack with a substitution five minutes before the break, as forward Maboke Matlakala replaced central midfielder Cesaire Gandze, but the score remained 3-1 up to the interval.
Ten minutes after the restart Stars goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare made two brilliant saves in quick succession, first denying Brockie from close range before quickly getting to his feet to close down Ngoma from the rebound.
Sundowns had further chances to add to their advantage, but they were either denied by the excellent Sangare or unable to capitalise on the openings they created. Stars also finished the game with 10 men after Nyiko Mobbie picked up a second yellow card in added time.
The teams will return to Absa Premiership action this weekend: ‘Downs have a high-profile clash at home to Orlando Pirates on Saturday afternoon, while Stars will be at home to SuperSport United later in the evening.
Mamelodi Sundowns (3) 3 (Brockie 12’, Sirino 25’ pen, 27’)
Free State Stars (1) 1 (Tchilimbou 37’)
Sundowns: Pieterse, Morena, Madisha, Lebusa, Lakay, Maboe, Jali, Kekana, Ngoma (Mabunda 62’), Sirino (Mahlambi 89’), Brockie (Ali Meza 79’)
Stars: Sangare, Mobbie, Keita, Mahamutsa, Phungwayo, Jantjie (Masina 59’), Gandze (Matlakala 40’), Makhaula, Dlamini, Tchilimbou, Moseamedi (Jappie 74’)