South Africa: Unstoppable Sundowns Too Much for Pirates

(file photo).
4 February 2023

Cassius Mailula's early goal fired Mamelodi Sundowns to a record-extending 15 consecutive Premier Soccer League wins following a 1-0 victory over Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Mailula made the difference six minutes into the contest as the Brazilians completed a league double over the Soweto giants.

Having already made known their title intentions, Sundowns collected yet another set of maximum points and opened a 23-point lead.

The afternoon saw Pirates' resurgence put to a brutal test with their three-match winning run being halted by the ruthless Brazilians.

Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena brought back some regulars he had rested in the last two games, with goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, Khuliso Mudau and Grant Kekana returning.

Mokwena's opposite number Jose Riveiro welcomed back central midfielder Miguel Timm while Goodman Mosele made his first start since October 2022.

It did not take time for the Tshwane visitors to change things when Mailula struck.

Masandawana profited from Nkosinathi Sibisi's error after his pass was intercepted by Neo Maema who fed Themba Zwane to set up Mailula for a grounder into the bottom corner

A few minutes later, the hosts almost benefited from Sundowns defender Thapelo Morena when he almost beat his own goalkeeper Williams in an attempt to clear danger with his head.

From the pressure they were exerting on Masandawana, Pirates thought they deserved a penalty on the half-hour mark when Mailula tripped Thabang Monare just inside the box but the referee waved play on.

The Soweto giants had another penalty appeal turned down eight minutes into the second half after what looked like a handball from Kekana.

On 58 minutes, Riveiro's men came inches away from equalising but substitute Vincent Pule was denied up the upright post while Williams saved Bandile Shandu's follow-up.

An opportunity to double Masandawana's lead was blown up by Zwane who broke loose but opted to go for the kill and blasted over the bar when an unmarked Peter Shalulile was begging for a pass.

Kermit Erasmus then wasted a good opportunity to equalise when he was slow in his charge towards goal and was dispossessed as Monnapule Saleng waited unmarked inside the box.

In what could have been the biggest chance of the contest, Mailula came face-to-face with Sipho Chaine with eight minutes to go but the Pirates keeper emerged triumphant from the challenge.

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