Mamelodi Sundowns claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Tshwane derby rivals SuperSport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night, opening a 14-point lead at the top of the DStv Premiership standings.
The result, secured by an early goal from Peter Shalulile, saw the Brazilians move to 37 points from a possible 45 this season and they remain unbeaten after 15 rounds – the halfway point of their league campaign.
Nearest chasers Orlando Pirates are 14 points back after winning earlier on Saturday, while Sekhukhune United could narrow the gap back to 11 points if they win away to Kaizer Chiefs on Sunday.
Matsatsantsa, who have been hit hard by injuries and Covid absences, suffered a fifth loss of the campaign and dropped to fifth place – 15 points off the pace set by their capital city rivals.
The first clear chance of the match went the way of SuperSport in the fifth minute, with Onismor Bhasera’s low cross from the left swept on target by Ghampani Lungu, but ‘Downs goalkeeper Denis Onyango made an excellent finger-tip save.
Sundowns then claimed the lead on nine minutes, with a superb pass from Themba Zwane putting Peter Shalulile in on goal and the Namibian provided a typically composed finish past United’s Boalefa Pule for 1-0.
The visitors suffered an injury blow just before the half-hour mark when Thabiso Kutumela picked up what seemed to be a hip or upper thigh problem and was replaced by Gaston Sirino.
Sundowns, despite holding the lead, struggled to find a rhythm to their passing and SuperSport were able to put them under some pressure through a combination of their direct play and occasional set pieces.
Yet the hosts were not able to call Onyango into significant action, with Rushine De Reuck doing a great job in quelling the threat of SuperSport striker Thamsanqa Gabuza and ensuring his team went into the break 1-0 up.
SuperSport looked to press high up the field in the second half, working to prevent their opponents building from the back, and chances for the likes of Lungu and Iqraam Rayners began to flow.
Gabuza also had a free header at a corner kick on the hour mark, but the burly striker didn’t make a clean connection and his effort was comfortably collected by Onyango.
Sundowns’ first chance of the second stanza arrived in the 67th minute, with Shalulile teeing up Thapelo Morena, but the wingback dragged his attempt wide of the mark.
Four minutes later Shalulile latched onto a mis-judged back header from Kegan Johannes and stabbed a shot at goal, but Pule made a fine smothering save to keep his team into the contest.
Sundowns then had a chance to kill off the game with just under a quarter hour of regulation time to play, but Shalulile was again denied by Pule, before Themba Zwane failed to capitalise on the rebound when United had only outfield players guarding the goal line.
Another Shalulile chance arrived on 86 minutes, with the Namibian lobbing over the top from Sphelele Mkhulise’s fine set-up, but it did not prove to be in vain for the Brazilians, who held firm for the 1-0 win and continue their seemingly inexorable march to a fifth straight title.
Sundowns will return to DStv Premiership action on Tuesday 14 December with a match at home to Baroka FC, while SuperSport’s next match is away to Sekhukhune United on Saturday 18 December.
SuperSport United 0
Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Shalulile 9’)
SuperSport: Pule, Nhlapo, Johannes, Ditlhokwe, Bhasera, Phillips, Waiswa, Webber, Rayners (Fleurs 84’), Lungu (Rasebotja 64’), Gabuza
Sundowns: D. Onyango, De Reuck, Kekana, Coetzee, Morena, Mkhulise (Nascimento 90’), Zwane, Lakay, Maema (Mvala 75’), Shalulile, Kutumela (Sirino 29’)