Defending champions remain in hunt after 2-0 win over Orlando Pirates
Champions Mamelodi Sundowns will not give up their Premiership title without a fight, and they ensured the race would go down to the wire after beating Orlando Pirates in an exciting league encounter at the Orlando Stadium yesterday.
A 25th-minute header from Khama Billiat and an early strike in the second half from Yannick Zakri gave Sundowns a comfortable 2-0 victory that enabled the Brazilians to keep title rivals Bidvest Wits – who won 1-0 against Maritzburg United at the Bidvest Stadium – in their sights.
You could almost cut the tension inside the Orlando Stadium with a knife as Sundowns were well aware that they needed to win to prevent Wits from running away with the title.
The visitors quickly settled into their rhythm and noticeably tightened the screws as they edged closer to Bucs goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane’s area with each passing minute.
The pressure was unrelenting and it came as no surprise when Sundowns punished their generous hosts after midfielder Issa Sarr needlessly lost possession in a dangerous area. Coach Pitso Mosimane’s charges duly showed their appreciation and put Pirates to the sword with a well-taken header from Billiat.
Pirates could have come back into the game almost immediately, but a low shot from Ayanda Gcaba that seemed destined for the bottom corner was somehow saved by Downs goalkeeper Dennis Onyango in the 30th minute.
The pace of the game was electric at times and Percy Tau‚ who was a constant nuisance to the Pirates rearguard‚ should have increased Downs’ lead in the 44th minute after he was put through by Billiat.
But Tau could not find a way past the sprawling Mabokgwane‚ who did enough to close the gap and make the crucial save.
Sarr could have redeemed himself in the last move of the first half but his powerful header was saved by Onyango.
Sundowns picked up where they left off in the second half and it was no surprise when Zakri scored the Pretoria visitors’ second goal only three minutes into the second period.
Besides conceding that early second-half goal‚ Pirates actually looked better in the second half and tried to make a game of it.
But if truth be told‚ the 2-0 final score was somewhat flattering to Pirates and they should have been on the receiving end of a heavier spanking.
Billiat should have punished the Bucs in the 89th minute when his scorcher beat Mabokgwane but was kept out by the crossbar.
Sundowns started the day in third place and a point behind title rivals Cape Town City‚ but they leapfrogged Eric Tinkler’s upstarts after their 2-0 win at the Orlando Stadium.
The three title rivals are now left with three games this season and Wits will be crowned premiership champions if they are able to hold their nerve in the final weeks of the campaign. Sundowns’ remaining games: v Baroka FC at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Wednesday v Maritzburg United at Loftus Versfeld on May 17 v Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium on May 27 Wits’ remaining games: v Free State Stars at Goble Park on Wednesday v Polokwane City at Bidvest on May 17 v Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium on May 27 Cape Town City’s remaining games: v Supersport United at Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow v Golden Arrows at Cape Town Stadium on May 17 v Polokwane City at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on May 27