Full-back Aubrey Modiba starred as Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Pretoria neighbours SuperSport United 3-1 on Wednesday to win the South African Premiership a record fourth consecutive time with three games to spare.
He created the first goal for Lebohang Maboe, scored the second and orchestrated the third for Themba Zwane as the hosts netted three times in 12 minutes before half-time.
Zwane had a poorly placed penalty saved by SuperSport captain Ronwen Williams early in the second half at Loftus Versfeld stadium.
A SuperSport side reduced to 10 men after only eight minutes when Congo Brazzaville-born Guily Manziba was red-carded fared better in the second half and Tebogo Mokoena scored four minutes from time.
Victory gave Sundowns an unassailable 10-point lead over second-place AmaZulu with each club having three matches to play in the richest African league.
Sundowns pocketed 15 million rand ($1.1 mn/895,000 euro) for finishing first and AmaZulu will receive half that amount if they remain second.
The top two finishers qualify for the 2022 CAF Champions League and the team coming third — most likely Golden Arrows or Orlando Pirates — will go into the CAF Confederation Cup with FA Cup winners TTM.
Sundowns were eliminated from the current Champions League last Saturday, losing 3-1 on aggregate to title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt after being held 1-1 at home.
Utility player Modiba began a match staged behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic at left-back and later switched to the other flank with equal effectiveness.
“This was an enjoyable match for me as I had plenty of space on both wings and was able to press forward regularly,” he said after receiving the man-of-the-match award.
“After SuperSport were reduced to 10 men, our aim was to push the ball as wide as possible to stretch their defence and the tactic worked well.
“We could have scored another three goals early in the second half and then took our foot off the pedal a little while SuperSport became more organised.”
Asked what was the secret behind the latest Premiership title, co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi said “domination of the ball”.
“Our season began with a comfortable away victory over Kaizer Chiefs, which instilled a lot of confidence in the squad, and we never looked back.”
Elsewhere, bottom club Black Leopards kept alive hopes of avoiding relegation as Tiklas Thutlwa scored twice in a 2-1 home win over Kaizer Chiefs, who had taken an early lead through Colombian Leonardo Castro.
Leopards, who are based in remote northeastern town Thohoyandou, trail second-last Chippa United by three points with both sides having two matches to play.