Mamelodi Sundowns racked up an 11th straight win in the DStv Premiership and opened a 14-point lead at the top of the table by defeating Tshwane derby rivals SuperSport United 1-0 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Monday evening.
Neo Maema’s first-half strike proved the difference in an evenly-matched clash, as the Brazilians took another step toward a sixth successive title and avenged a 2-1 league defeat at the hands of United earlier in the season.
As for Matsatsantsa, this fifth defeat of the league season leaves them in third place and 16 points adrift of ‘Downs, though they (and second-placed Richards Bay) have played one game less than the reigning champions.
SuperSport nearly claimed the lead in the fifth minute, with the visitors winning the ball high up the field before Patrick Maswanganyi let fly from the right flank with an in-swinging effort which nearly drifted into the net and forced a sharp save from Ronwen Williams.
Another great save came from George Chigova at the other end a few minutes later, as the Zimbabwean reacted superbly to tip away Kegan Johannes’ inadvertent effort on his own goal as he attempted to cut out a low cross from Aubrey Modiba.
On 13 minutes United cut open Sundowns’ defence and youngster Thapelo Maseko sent a low shot just wide of the far post, after neatly opening space for the effort with a drop of the shoulder.
Chances continued to flow at both ends, but ultimately it was Sundowns who broke the deadlock a couple of minutes before the end of regulation time in the first half.
Cassius Mailula showed both determination and quality down the right of the penalty area, as he found himself going to ground in a challenge with Onismor Bhasera, but managed to scoop a pass from a prone position to find Neo Maema, who struck home left-footed to see the hosts ahead at the break.
The Brazilians showed greater control in the opening stages of the second half, while Matsatsantsa looked to change things up with a triple change just before the hour mark which saw the introductions of Iqraam Rayners, Aubrey Ngoma and Thalenthe Mbatha.
Ngoma threatened to bring the visitors level on 69 minutes when he struck from the edge of the penalty area, but his effort was narrowly off target. It was the first of several half-chances for SuperSport which they failed to fully capitalise on.
‘Downs, meanwhile, almost killed off the game late on when substitute Peter Shalulile worked space for a shot in goal in the 89th minute, but he saw his effort palmed away by Chigova. Nonetheless, the team in yellow and blue saw out the match to claim yet another victory – though their hearts would have been in their mouths when Maseko’s driving run inside from the right flank ended with a speared shot that rebounded off the base of the post deep in injury time.
The teams will return to DStv Premiership action this coming weekend, with Sundowns visiting Kaizer Chiefs on the evening of Saturday 21 January and SuperSport hosting Richards Bay the following afternoon.
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Maema 43’)
SuperSport United 0
Mamelodi Sundowns:Williams, Mudau, De Reuck, Mvala, Modiba (Ngobeni 90+1’), Mokoena (Kekana 90+1’), Maema, Zwane, Allende (Mbule 72’), Sirino (Shalulile 66’), Mailula (Kutumela 72’)
SuperSport United:Chigova, Nhlapo, Fleurs, Johannes, Bhasera, Lungu (Rayners 59’), Ndlovu, Kewuti (Mbatha 59’), Maswanganyi, Maseko, Gabuza (Ngoma 59’)
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