Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Maritzburg United: Captain Kekana fires the Brazilians to victory
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Masandawana were made to fight for the three points as the Team of Choice put on a spirited performance in Tshwane

Mamelodi Sundowns needed something truly special to beat Maritzburg United, and captain Hlompho Kekana provided just that as they extended their unbeaten record to 27 league games.

Sundowns returned to Premier Soccer League (PSL) action on Wednesday evening following their Caf Champions League opener this past weekend against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars.

Sundowns were keen to bounce back from their defeat, but it wasn’t going to be easy as they came up against a Maritzburg side desperate for a win as they languished dangerously at the bottom of the log.

With an unbeaten record and potential move up the league table up for grabs, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane made just a few changes in order to freshen up his squad.

Jeremy Brockie, who did not travel with the team to Nigeria due to suspension returned to the squad as he led the line upfront, while at the back, Tebogo Langerman came in. But the biggest surprise came on the bench as the Cuthbert Malajila was named in the squad for the first time in over a year, although he did not feature.

While it was Sundowns who dominated the early exchanges, Muhsin Ertugral had immediately drafted in new signing Thabiso Kutumela and the forward almost made an impact straight out the gate.

But Kennedy Mweene who retained his place in the absence of Denis Onyango made a good save to deny what could have been just their ninth goal conceded this season.

However, this only encouraged Sundowns to go in search of an early goal and Anthony Laffor was unlucky as his effort went just wide despite only having the goalkeeper to beat.

With the game growing older, Maritzburg were coming more into the game, and Keletso Makgalwa who has scored one goal for the Team of Choice in the league this season was using his pace to get the better of the Sundowns’ defence, but his final ball was leaving much to be desired.

With Maritzburg slowly pushing more men upfront as they grew in confidence, this left them vulnerable at the back and Themba Zwane forced Richard Ofori into a save from an acute angle.

Maritzburg had only netted six times in league before this clash and they were certainly looking determined to put the ball in the back of the net. De Reuck had arguably Maritzburg’s best chance of the first half with an unmarked header at the back post, but he could not find the target.

Both sides have been often lauded for the defensive organisation at the back, but the first half display was by no means a promotion of that, as Maritzburg, in particular, were static at the back, allowing Zwane to have several cracks at their goal. But the 29-year-old could not pounce.

With the half-time whistle looming, both sides were going hammer and tong at each other and after Zwane had a goal ruled out for offside, Kutumela then almost put Maritzburg ahead before the break but his shot from inside the box went agonisingly wide, as they went into the break level.

Sundowns came out for the second half looking determined to find the back of the net and Ofori needed to be at his very best as he made a superb save to deny Hlompho Kekana’s deflected drive.

Aside from Kekana, dangerman Gaston Sirino was coming more into the game as he dazzled his way past the Maritzburg defence, only again the final product was not there.

The longer though that Sundowns were unable to break the deadlock, the more confident Maritzburg grew and Makgalwa came within a whisker of scoring against his parent club only for Mweene to deny him with a wonderful save.

With Maritzburg looking resolute, on the hour mark, Kekana led by example as he rifled home a trademark shot from outside the area that had the sparse Loftus Versfeld crowd off their seats. It was only the veteran’s second league goal of the season.

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Sundowns really needed something special in order to beat Ofori as he was having a spectacular performance at times standing between Sundowns and a barrage of goals.

But even his best efforts were not enough as Sundowns moved to third on the PSL log, while Maritzburg remain bottom.

 

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