Sundowns march on, open six-point lead

Mamelodi Sundowns continued their seemingly inevitable march to the DStv Premiership title with a 3-1 away win over Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

Rivaldo Coetzee, Sphelele Mkhulise and Sibusiso Vilakazi all scored for the first time this season as the Brazilians extended their unbeaten run to 19 league games this term and opened a six-point lead over nearest chasers Golden Arrows – having played two games less than the Durban club. The result also sees Tshakhuma remain in 15th place – the relegation playoff spot.

Sundowns made almost all of the early attacking play, though the most they had to show for their dominance in the opening quarter hour was a snap shot from the edge of the penalty area by Lebohang Maboe which drifted over the crossbar.

Tshakhuma then claimed the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute, with Thembisani Nevhulamba heading home from Thabo Mnyamane’s free kick delivery from the right flank. The scorer appeared to be marginally offside, but ‘Downs were still guilty of poor marking at the set piece.

The goal saw TTM’s confidence rise and they created further chances to add to their advantage, including one on the half-hour mark which saw ‘Downs goalkeeper Denis Onyango forced into a sharp save to deny Mnyamane at close range.

Tshakhuma’s Washington Arubi came up with an even better save a few minutes before the interval, scrambling across to his left post to claw away an effort from Rushine De Reuck which looked destined for the back of the net.

However, the home team’s goalkeeper was helpless to prevent an equaliser in injury time before the interval: Gaston Sirino’s corner kick to the near post was headed home by Rivaldo Coetzee, who did not even need to get airborne, leaving the game locked at 1-1 at halftime.

Sundowns picked up in the second half where they left off in the first and almost claimed the lead 11 minutes after the restart: Sirino beat Arubi to a great through ball from Maboe and lobbed a shot on target, but Lehlohonolo Nonyane recovered to make a goal-line clearance.

Sirino had an even better chance to score just after the hour mark when Sundowns were awarded a soft penalty – with Themba Zwane tumbling after minimal contact with Nonyane – but the attacker blazed the spot kick high and wide.

The Brazilians kept up the pressure in attack and were finally rewarded in the 69th minute. Lyle Lakay whipped in an in-swinging cross from the right to pick out Sphelele Mkhulise, who ghosted in at the back post and nodded home to put the visitors ahead.

Tshakhuma’s Mnyamane was a thorn in the side of Sundowns’ defence and nearly levelled the game with just over 10 minutes of regulation time to play, as his shot direct from a free kick had the beating of Onyango, but not the woodwork.

The Brazilians ensured they would not have a nervy finish to the game when they netted a third in the 81st minute. Substitute Sibusiso Vilakazi arrived late in the danger area to meet Peter Shalulile’s cross and volleyed home to make it 3-1.

Tshakhuma will be back in DStv Premiership action on Saturday, 10 April when they visit TS Galaxy, while Sundowns’ next league game is away to Chippa United next Monday, 12 April.

Tshakhuma TM (1) 1 (Nevhulamba 18’)

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 3 (Coetzee 45+2’, Mkhulise 69’, Vilakazi 81’)

Tshakhuma: Arubi, Lukhubeni, Ndengane, Nonyane, Madhanga (Manaka 76’), Timm (Ngema 90+1’), Ndlondlo (Nkili 76’), Theron, Mnyamane, Rakhale (Rantie 64’), Nevhulamba (Mabotja 64’)

Sundowns: D. Onyango, De Reuck, Lebusa, Coetzee, Morena, Mkhulise (Modiba 89’), Maboe (Vilakazi 70’), Lakay, Zwane (Maluleka 79’), Sirino (Mkhuma 79’), Shalulile (B. Onyango 89’)