A second half Percy Tau strike saw Mamelodi Sundowns claim yet another victory, extending their lead at the top of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) log.
On Wednesday evening, Sundowns welcomed an in-form Maritzburg United outfit to the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, looking to solidify their lead at the top of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) leaderboard.
The encounter promised to be a tight but exciting affair, and Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane was under no illusions of the threat that the Team of Choice posed. This led to the 53-year-old choosing a strong attacking lineup, albeit without the services of Khama Billiat who was nursing an injury.
Meanwhile, on the side of Maritzburg, coach Fadlu Davids made one change from the side which impressively dispatched of Baroka, bringing in defender Brian Onyango as he looked to bolster his backline.
As expected both teams looked rather tentative as they came out of the blocks. Maritzburg though did surprisingly look a lot more positive than was predicted as they used the pace of Evans Rusike upfront. But while they were comfortable in possession, they could not trouble Denis Onyango in the early stages of the match, and would have to wait until the 16th minute to have their first shot on target. Maritzburg’s Lebohang Maboe broke through on goal but his rasping effort was superbly tipped over the bar by the Ugandan keeper.
At the other end, Sundowns were kept quiet thanks to a combination of compact, no-nonsense defending and poor decision making amongst the Brazilians attack which frustrated coach Mosimane. Chances though were at a premium for both sides, and Sundowns’ first real chance of the game came just before the half hour mark. Themba Zwane found himself on the end of a superb cross but his header could not find the target.
Nonetheless, with time running out in the half, Tau had a glorious chance to break the deadlock after being played through on goal. But the chance would be wasted as the 23-year-old was guilty of holding onto the ball for a moment too long.
Sundowns were beginning to come into the game, and minutes later Hlompho Kekana brought out the best in Maritzburg’s Richard Ofori as the Ghanaian keeper palmed the Sundowns captain’s low drive out for a corner, keeping Maritzburg level going into the break.
The resumption of the second half saw much of the same with the Sundowns coach incensed on the touchline with every tackle that occurred. His frustrations would grow even deeper when five minutes after the break, Maritzburg were almost gifted a goal. A poor back pass to Onyango was intercepted by Rusike, but the Sundowns keeper did enough to avert the danger to the relief of the Sundowns defence.
Sundowns woes worsened just before the hour mark as Sibusiso Vilakazi was forced off with injury. Mosimane threw on Yannick Zakri, and his introduction allowed Sundowns to play slightly more direct.
However, with 64 minutes played, Sundowns eventually breached Maritzburg’s resistance. Tau once again proved to be Sundowns go-to man in the absence of Billiat as he showed superb composure after he was played through on goal by Kekana, and he made no mistake as he slotted his effort past Ofori, breaking the deadlock.
The goal forced the away side to throw men forward in an effort to find the equaliser. Davids threw on Andrea Fileccia in order to add to the firepower upfront in what was a final throw of the proverbial dice. But the move would prove ineffective as the Tshwane giants held on for the three points, registering their third win on the trot.