Mamelodi Sundowns secured a narrow but deserved 1-0 win over Maritzburg United in an Absa Premiership match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday.
The victory took the Brazilians into third place on the log, five points adrift of leaders Bidvest Wits but with three matches in hand. The Team of Choice, who put in a promising showing, remain bottom of the log with just 11 points to their name.
The teams traded scoring chances throughout the first half, and surprisingly enough the best opportunities went the way of Maritzburg.
They saw new striker Thabiso Kutumela have a low shot on goal as early as the third minute, which was well saved by Kennedy Mweene, while defender Rushine De Reuck twice failed to hit the target from good headed chances.
In between De Reuck’s efforts, the Team of Choice also saw a penalty appeal turned down, with Siphesihle Ndlovu tumbling under a challenge from Hlompho Kekana in the 18-yard area.
Sundowns’ best chances in the first half saw Anthony Laffor stab a lob just wide, Gaston Sirino struck a low shot narrowly off target, and Themba Zwane had the ball in the back of the net but was (incorrectly) adjudged offside by the referee’s assistant.
The final chances of the half saw United with a strong counter attack which ended with Kutumela scuffing a shot just wide, while Sirino’s deflected square ball moments later somehow went just wide with Richard Ofori scrambling to try and recover.
The second half very nearly opened with a goal for Sundowns, as Kekana’s long range shot took a nasty deflection off a Maritzburg defender, but Ofori made an excellent acrobatic save.
Mweene then came up with an equally fine stop in the 56th minute, tipping over the bar from a goal-bound shot by on-loan Sundowns attacker Keletso Makgalwa.
When the deadlock was finally broken on the hour mark, it came from a characteristic thunderbolt by Kekana – Ofori got a hand on the midfielder’s long-range strike, but was still powerless to keep it out of his net.
Yet the Ghanaian goalkeeper had plenty more opportunities to show his shot-stopping class, keeping out a string of efforts as ‘Downs searched for a second goal to kill off the game – it never arrived for the Brazilians, but they still held out with relative comfort to claim the win.
Maritzburg will be in Absa Premiership action again this weekend when they face Chippa United away on Saturday afternoon, while Sundowns will wait until next week Tuesday for their league clash at Highlands Park.
Sundowns: Mweene, Ngongca, Lebusa, Nascimento, Langerman, Kekana, Zwane, Laffor (Morena 76’), Sirino (Lakay 90’), Maboe, Brockie (Mabunda 66’)
Maritzburg: Ofori, De Reuck, Xulu, Onyango, Sanoka (Moseamedi 72’), Makaringe, Ndlovu (Matima 63’), Matsi, Kunene, Makgalwa (Figuareido 71’), Kutumela