Mamelodi Sundowns claimed a nervy but vital 1-0 win over Golden Arrows at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday night to move within touching distance of the Absa Premiership title.
The Brazilians dominated the match and should have won by a far more convincing margin, but the result nonetheless took them six points clear at the top of the log with just three rounds of the league season remaining.
Given their far better goal difference (+23 compared to Orlando Pirates’ +11), ‘Downs effectively need just one more win to claim the championship.
Sundowns nearly claimed the lead as early as the second minute, with Sibusiso Vilakazi’s clever back-heel putting Gaston Sirino in space, but his shot rebounded off Maximilian Mbaeva’s left-hand post.
In the 19th minute the hosts were denied what looked a clear penalty when Jabulani Shongwe tripped Vilakazi from behind in the 18-yard area, with the referee waving away their appeals.
However, just a few minutes later, the Brazilians were awarded a spot kick after Zolani Nkombelo clumsily brought down Vilakazi. Defender Ricardo Nascimento scored from the penalty to hand ‘Downs the ascendancy on 25 minutes.
In the 34th minute there was yet another penalty appeal from the hosts after Nkanyiso Mngwengwe challenged Percy Tau and didn’t appear to get any of the ball – again the referee ignored their pleas.
Through the remainder of the first half and the early stages of the second half, Sundowns continued to dominate and create chances, the best of which saw Tau put the ball just wide of the target 13 minutes after the restart.
Midway through the second half the Brazilians blew yet another opportunity when they put Vilakazi in space in the penalty area, but the attacker took too long to get a shot away and was closed down by Mbaeva, prompting calls for substitutions from the home supporters as the nerves and tension ramped up.
‘Downs coach Pitso Mosimane soon obliged by introducing Oupa Manyisa and Thapelo Morena off the bench in an effort to kill off the game, while Arrows sub Knox Mutizwa was somewhat unlucky not to be given a penalty after he tumbled in the box under a risky challenge from Wayne Arendse in the 79th minute.
On 86 minutes Tau found the back of the net after some pin-ball in the Arrows box, but the referee disallowed the goal after the ball struck the forward’s arm before he tucked it home.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Nascimento 25’ pen)
Golden Arrows 0
Sundowns: Onyango, Ngcongca, Arendse, Nascimento, Langerman, Kekana, Mabunda, T. Zwane (Madisha 90’), Vilakazi (Manyisa 74’), Sirino (Morena 74’), Tau
Arrows: Mbaeva, Mzava, Mathiane, Mngwengwe, Nkombelo, Bilankulu (Ndwandwe 46’), Zuke, Venter (Mutizwa 58’), Shongwe (Sibiya 79’), Magubane, Lamola.