Mamelodi Sundowns continued their serene progress at the top of the DStv Premiership with a 1-0 win over Maritzburg United at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The result – secured by a brilliantly-taken goal from Peter Shalulile – sees the Brazilians extend their unbeaten start to the season to eight matches, reclaim a three-point lead at the top of the log (with a game in hand) and secure a South African league record by keeping an 11th straight clean sheet.
The Team of Choice, meanwhile, suffer a fifth defeat and find themselves 11th on the log – five points clear of the relegation zone and two points adrift of the top half.
Maritzburg adopted a direct and aggressive approach from the start and succeeded in applying some pressure on the hosts, with their tactic of flooding midfield with bodies succeeding in disrupting the passing rhythm of a ‘Downs team which saw seven changes compared to their MTN8 final line-up this past weekend.
Sundowns gradually began to assert themselves and find space by speeding up their passing patterns, though the United defence was content to sit deep and hold their opponents at arm’s length, with goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt untested through the first half.
The Brazilians should have claimed the lead on 37 minutes when Peter Shalulile was able to find a pocket of space in the penalty area, cutting back onto his right foot to shoot, but his effort flashed over the crossbar.
The Team of Choice enjoyed a strong spell of pressure late in the first half, putting together some impressive passing sequences, but they lacked the final killer ball to open up Sundowns and create a clear chance for striker Amadou Soukouna.
After a goalless first half, Sundowns nearly broke the deadlock eight minutes into the second stanza, with Themba Zwane setting Pavol Safranko free to run at the Maritzburg defence before forcing Engelhardt into a fine save with a low drive from the edge of the box.
That scare should have warned Maritzburg that Sundowns were moving through the gears, but they could do nothing to prevent Shalulile from finding the back of the net in the 56th minute.
A superb ball over the top of the defence from Neo Maema picked out the Namibian striker’s run and Shalulile provided a deft, first-time volleyed finish over Engelhardt to put the Brazilians in front.
Maritzburg almost came up with a response just past the hour mark, as substitute Lifa Hlongwane sent a long range shot just wide of the mark.
Sundowns had further chances from which they tested Engelhardt, but in the main the rest of the match was an exercise in controlled possession as the Tshwane side closed up shop and ensured they picked up a seventh win from eight league outings in 2021-22.
The teams will be back in DStv Premiership action this weekend, with Sundowns away to Marumo Gallants and Maritzburg visiting Chippa United, both on Sunday.
Mamelodi Sundowns (0) 1 (Shalulile 56’)Maritzburg United 0TEAMS:
Mamelodi Sundowns:Pieterse, Mudau, Lebusa, Kekana, Lunga, Maema (Lakay 90’), Jali, Zwane, Domingo (Kapinga 90+4’), Shalulile (Motupa 90’), Safranko (Mvala 79’)
Maritzburg United:Engelhardt, Rae, Ndengane, Allie, Bhengu (Zumah 65’), Claasen, Graham (L. Hlongwane 46’), Ntshangase, Kewuti, B. Hlongwane, Soukouna© Backpage TXT