Mamelodi Sundowns have closed to within four points of Absa Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs following a narrow 1-0 win over Stellenbosch at Athlone Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The Brazilians secured the victory thanks to an early goal from Themba Zwane and still have a game in hand on the Amakhosi. Stellies, meanwhile, remain 11th place and four points clear of the relegation playoff spot.
Sundowns got off to a great start and claimed the lead in the ninth minute, with Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi exchanging passes before the former swept home a low shot from close range to put the visitors in early control.
Stellenbosch had a chance to level the game in the 20th minute when defender Mogamad De Goede got up highest to meet a corner kick, but was unable to direct his header on target.
Just past the midway point of the first half ‘Downs suffered an injury blow when Sphelele Mkhulise sustained a knock to the ankle and was replaced by Lebohang Maboe.
The Tshwane side seemed unsettled after the unscheduled substitution and Stellenbosch looked the likelier scorers in the remainder of the first half, particularly through their aerial power at set pieces, but the score remained 1-0 in favour of the Brazilians up to the interval.
Sundowns continued to look short of their best in the second half, with coach Pitso Mosimane opting for a tactical change when he replaced Gaston Sirino with Lyle Lakay 10 minutes after the restart.
Almost immediately the Brazilians upped their game, with the hosts needing Lee Langeveldt to come quickly off his line to prevent Zwane netting a second, while Hlompho Kekana struck over from long range a few seconds later.
Stellies had their best chance to equalise in the 65th minute, as Leletu Skelem did brilliantly to keep a free kick delivery in play, with Denis Onyango drawn off his line, but De Goede had the ball stuck under his feet just a couple of metres from a virtually unguarded goal and the opportunity slipped away.
Six minutes later Stellenbosch substitute Ryan Moon chested down a ball for Ovidy Karuru, who struck the ball way off target, while Sundowns were reduced to 10 men for the final quarter hour: Tebogo Langerman picked up a knee injury and was stretchered off shortly after the visitors had made their final substitution.
Yet the Brazilians shrugged off this disadvantage and cannily saw out the remaining time without too much threat to their goal, securing a key three points in their ambitions to defend the league championship.
Sundowns will be back in action this Saturday when they play Highlands Park away in the Nedbank Cup, while Stellenbosch will wait until March 22 for their next league outing, a home match against Golden Arrows.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Zwane 9’)
Stellenbosch: Langeveldt, Mobbie, Mthethwa, De Goede, Van Heerden, Msengi, Scott (Moon 69’), Mbekile, Karuru (Isaacs 79’), Skelem, Du Preez (Rayners 60’)
Sundowns: Onyango, Ngcongca, Madisha, Nascimento, Langerman, Mkhulise (Maboe 26’), Kekana, Jali, Zwane (Ali Meza 72’), Vilakazi, Sirino (Lakay 55’)©
SOURCED FROM THE PSL WEBSITE.