‘Downs strike major blow in title race

Mamelodi Sundowns have struck a major blow in the Absa Premiership title race after defeating Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 at Orlando Stadium on Thursday evening.

The result – secured by a first-half goal from Gaston Sirino – sees the Brazilians join the Amakhosi on 53 points at the top of the log, with just three rounds of the 2019-20 league season remaining.

The Soweto giants continue to hold top spot with a superior goal difference (+21 compared to +16), but that will be of little consolation after a run of form in which they have won just once in five matches since the restart and given up a significant lead.

Chiefs manager Ernst Middendorp made a bold team selection by trusting 17-year-old Keletso Sifama (the youngest ever player in the first team) with a starting berth ahead of Khama Billiat, while Lebogang Manyana and Erick Mathoho returned to the run-on XI.

The Amakhosi looked dangerous on transition in the opening quarter of the game, but it was their own goalkeeper who made the first notable save, with Daniel Akpeyi tipping away a goal-bound shot direct from a free kick by Lyle Lakay in the 20th minute.

Fourteen minutes later Sundowns went ahead through a brilliant goal. Themba Zwane took three defenders out of the game with a superb reverse-flick assist and Gaston Sirino did the rest, striking the ball past the right hand of Akpeyi and into the bottom corner of the net.

The Brazilians were boosted by the goal and looked capable of adding to their advantage before the halftime break, but they weren’t quite able to capitalise and went to the change room with only a 1-0 lead to show for their efforts.

Chiefs made three changes at the start of the second half, introducing Dumisani Zuma, Khama Billiat and Anthony Akumu Agay off the bench in an effort to get their attack clicking. Within the opening two minutes Bernard Parker forced ‘Downs goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene into tipping a long-range effort onto the top of his crossbar.

The Zambian shot-stopper was in action again in the 51st minute, bravely smothering the ball at the feet of Zuma after a neat one-two between the substitute and Manyama on the edge of the penalty area.

The Amakhosi kept probing in attack but Sundowns came within inches of claiming a second goal in the 77th minute. Substitute Lebohang Maboe benefited from a mix-up in the hosts’ defence and had a clear sight of goal, but struck the inside of the post with a left-footed effort.

Ultimately Sundowns were able to hold out for a hard-fought win which puts them right in the frame to claim a third successive Absa Premiership title.

The teams will return to league action on Sunday 30 August, with Chiefs visiting Bidvest Wits at FNB Stadium in the afternoon and Sundowns hosting Baroka FC at Dobsonville Stadium in the evening.

Kaizer Chiefs 0

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 1 (Sirino 34’)


Kaizer Chiefs: Akpeyi, Frosler, Moleko (Zulu 76’), Cardoso, Mathoho, Sasman, Katsande (Agay 46’), Sifama (Zuma 46’ [Mphahlele 90+4’]), Parker, Manyama, Kambole (Billiat 46’)

Mamelodi Sundowns: Mweene, Ngcongca, Madisha, Coetzee, Lebusa, Lakay, Mkhulise (Mahlambi 80’), Kekana (Arendse 83’), Zwane (Jali 65’), Sirino (Maboe 65’), Meza (Langerman 80’)