CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns sent an emphatic reminder to any potential title challengers that they are not going to relinquish their DStv Premiership crown without a fight by thumping rivals Orlando Pirates 3-0 at Soweto Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Having been pushed into second place over the weekend by the energitic AmaZulu, Sundowns roared back into pole position by trouncing the Buccaneers.
After both teams were unable to create any genuine opportunities during a deary first half that saw the action confined to the middle of the field, the Brazilians turned on the style during the second period.
The was primarily due to the enterprise provided by Gift Motupa, who replaced injured striker Kermit Erasmus at halftime.
The opening was eventually created when Peter Shalulile volleyed a strike from Aubrey Modiba’s cross that hit Innocent Maela’s hand inside the box. A penalty was immediately awarded which allowed Ricardo Nascimento the opportunity to convert from the spot.
Sundowns were in complete control from that stage onwards and were now closing in on the Buccaneers’ goal with virtually every attack.
Shalulile, who scored in the corresponding fixture in the first round of the league, doubled Sundowns’ lead when Bucs captain Thulani Hlatshwayo was dispossesed by Motupa. The Namibian hitman received the pass and rifled it straight past Wayne Sandilands into the bottom left hand corner.
The cherry on the top, though, was provided by a stunning free kick from Lyle Lakay. The midfielder produced a curling left-footer that that left Sandilands flat-footed in goal.
It really was a strike of beauty that ricocheted off the goalpost into the back of the net.
Sundowns had a further opportunity to drive home their superiority when the visitors created a four-on-one situation inside the Pirates, but the opportunity was squandered with the eventual strike blasted into the side netting.
The victory certainly verified Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi claims that his team remain the pacesetters in the league, despite their recent mini-slump that saw the defending champions drop five points in their last two matches.
“Yes, I did say that because it’s very unfair for our players to listen to all the criticism when in the last 29 days we have played nine matches.
And if you check that up until the end, we are expected to play 20 games in eight weeks. It is something unheard of. Normally you play that in four or five months. But Sundowns are expected to play that amount of games in two months.
“But we always knew with a little bit of a break and a breather that we will come back. It was just unfortunate that we didn’t get the results against Golden Arrows and AmaZulu. We have a very good team and they worked very hard. The atmosphere is very good and we all understood that we had to be up for the fight in this match,” Mngqithi said.