Sundowns join Pirates at the summit

Hlompho Kekana © Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns have gone level on points with leaders Orlando Pirates at the top of the Absa Premiership after claiming a 3-2 win over Chippa United at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday afternoon.

The Brazilians, inspired by an excellent performance from Gaston Sirino, remain in second place on the log on goal difference, but can head to their CAF Champions League assignment against Wydad Casablanca safe in the knowledge that their domestic ambitions remain alive and well.

The Chilli Boys, meanwhile, drop back into the bottom two and are very much in danger of suffering relegation to the second tier at the end of the season.

The sides traded early chances, but the best went the way of Chippa debutant Bengali Keita in the fifth minute, with a flick-on from a corner kick giving the defender a virtually unguarded goal as he arrived the back post, but he was unable to make meaningful contact with the ball.

Yet the visitors shrugged off that disappointment and went on to claim the lead in the 25th minute, with a counter attack ending with Mark Mayambela executing a clever turn in the penalty area before cracking home a left-footed shot.

Sundowns looked for a way back into the game and on 43 minutes they drew level, with captain Hlompho Kekana rising unmarked to head home from Gaston Sirino’s free kick delivery. The teams were locked 1-1 at halftime.

The Brazilians looked the better team from early in the second half and claimed the lead for the first time 12 minutes after the restart, with Sirino and Tebogo Langerman combining to tee up Sibusiso Vilakazi, who easily scored from close range for his first league goal since September last year.

Sirino’s good work in creating the first two goals was rewarded on 69 minutes when he scored one of his own, picking up the ball on the right of the penalty area before sending a low shot into the bottom corner of the net to make it 3-1.

The hosts went on to spurn several good chances to extend their advantage and ended up sweating for the three points by the end of the game, with Chippa forward Rhulani Manzini providing a fine finish to pull a goal back in the 86th minute.

Deep in injury time ‘Downs needed goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to make two superb saves – from Andile Mbenyane and Rhulani Manzini – in quick succession ot ensure his team picked up all three points and kept their title hopes alive.

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 3 (Kekana 43’, Vilakazi 57’, Sirino 69’)

Chippa United (1) 2 (Mayambela 25’, R. Manzini 85’)

Sundowns: Mweene, Morena, Nascimento, Lebusa, Langerman, Mabunda, Kekana, Vilakazi (Madisha 72’), Zwane, Sirino (Lakay 86’), Maboe (Coetzee 90+3’)

Chippa: Mzimela, Makobela, Modisane, Keita, Tlolane, Komane, Malepe, Gamildien (L. Manzini 72’), Mayambela (Rakhale 62’), Klate (Mbenyane 61’), R. Manzini