Ten-man Mamelodi Sundowns made it three DStv Premiership wins on the spin as they beat basement dwellers Baroka 2-1 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Brazilians went into the break a man down after Kermit Erasmus incurred the wrath of the referee, but also a goal to the good courtesy of Rivaldo Coetzee in injury time.
Bakgaga would level matters through Richard Mbulu in the second half, although Themba Zwane restored the champions’ lead seven minutes from time to extend their lead over the chasing pack to 15 points ahead of Orlando Pirates’ clash with Swallows later that same night.
Meanwhile, the Limpopo outfit remain rooted to the foot of the table on 10 points, two adrift of safety after suffering their ninth defeat of the season.
The hosts came into the match without first-team regulars Khuliso Mudau, Haashim Domingo, Mosa Lebusa, Neo Maema and Thabiso Kutumela, and their evening got worse when top-scorer Peter Shalulile succumbed to an injury midway through the first half.
Still Sundowns started well and fashioned a couple of early chances, with Rushine De Reuck heading wide from a corner in the second minute before Erasmus drew a save out of Oscarine Masuluke from his snap-shot on the edge of the area in the 11th minute.
Denis Onyango had to be alert at the other end to keep out a deflected shot from the visitors six minutes later, while Shalulile directed a header over the crossbar from Lyle Lakay’s cross soon afterwards but stayed down following a clash of heads with an opponent.
Shalulile tried to soldier on in vain before being replaced by Pavol Safranko on 24 minutes.
Kgoloko Thobejane’s side should have broken the deadlock just two minutes later when Mbulu ran clear through on goal, but he failed to beat Onyango in a one-on-one.
More opportunities came at both ends as Thapelo Morena missed the target with a first-time shot from the edge of the box on the half-hour mark after being teed up by Zwane before Onyango was forced to tip an effort behind from Thamsanqa Masiya at his near post.
Then moments after Sphelele Mkhulise tested Masuluke with a low strike at his near post on 42 minutes, Erasmus was shown a straight red card for dissent.
What could have been a nightmare for Downs soon turned into jubilation as Coetzee latched onto a loose ball in the box and slotted home past Masuluke in the third minute of stoppage time.
The second half was a quieter affair, although Masandawana were quickly out of the blocks with Zwane denied by Masuluke on 47 minutes following good work by Safranko to hold the ball up inside the box.
Onyango was called into action 10 minutes later to save Bernard Bobete’s tame header, only to be beaten on 71 minutes as Mbulu made amends for his missed chance earlier in the first half.
Parity last just 12 minutes, however, when Zwane rifled the ball beyond Masuluke into the back of the net to clinch all three points.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 2 (Coetzee 45+3′, Zwane 83′)Baroka (0) 1 (Mbulu 71′)TEAMS
Mamelodi Sundowns:Onyango, Coetzee, De Reuck, Kekana, Lakay (Modiba 88′), Morena, Jali, Mkhulise (Mvala 88′), Erasmus, Zwane, Shalulile (Safranko 24′, Nascimento 75′).
Baroka:Masuluke, Makume, Sibiya, Mbulu, Sithole, Kambala, Masiya (Mgaga 53′), Ngubane, Ndlovu (Makgopa 53′), Bobete, Farmer.
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