PIETERMARITZBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns dethroned Orlando Pirates on top of the Premiership table on Wednesday night as they brushed off Maritzburg United 2-1 in an entertaining tussle at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
The Brazilians are now three points clear of the Buccaneers at the summit.
They have acquired 43 points after 23 games, while the Sea Robbers are on 40 points after the same number of games.
Sundowns also broke their three-year barren run of results at Harry Gwala, while putting more misery to the home side’s fate in the league.
Maritzburg are still rooted at the foot of the table with 17 points after 23 games. They are three points behind the second-from-bottom Chippa United.
Time is running out for Maritzburg, and they need to collect maximum points as soon as possible if they want to keep their Premier Soccer League status.
Sundowns ran Maritzburg ragged in the first half as they netted two quick goals in the first 21 minutes.
Emiliano Tade put Sundowns in the lead with a well executed strike, and then Lebohang Maboe doubled the lead after 21 minutes.
The game was played at a frenetic pace. Maritzburg were forced to open up in their search for the equaliser.
Denis Onyango produced a double save on 26 minutes to deny Fortune Makaringe.
Eric Tinkler showed his intent of reducing the deficit when he sacrificed Rushine de Reuck, and then introduced Yannick Zakri after 27 minutes.
Zakri made an instant impact as he almost scored within a minute, but Onyango was at his level best.
Mxolisi Kunene delivered a quality cross from the left-hand side, and Zakri did well to outjump Rivaldo Coetzee and direct his header on target.
Zakri went close again, but Onyango kept him at bay. Makaringe spotted a well-timed run by Zakri, who showed a great first touch to bring it down and go one-on-one with Onyango, who closed the angle.
Thapelo Morena was the main culprit as he misjudged Makaringe’s diagonal pass, which allowed Zakri to get to the ball first.
It was a two-man show between Onyango and Zakri in the first half.
But Onyango was the difference between Maritzburg and finding the back of the net. He made another brilliant save to keep the Team of Choice at bay.
Thabiso Kutumela played a lovely pass to Makaringe, but Onyango was up to the task again.
Sundowns were reduced to 10 men after Gaston Sirino was given his marching orders for time-wasting.
There’s never a dull moment when referee Victor Gomes is in the middle. The Uruguayan received two yellow cards in the space of a minute.
Maritzburg put a up an excellent fight this evening but the Brazilians proved to be too much! With two excellent goals in the first half that was enough to see Downs beat Maritzburg and go TOP OF THE LOG! #Sundowns #DownsLive #DownsMaritzburg #AbsaPrem pic.twitter.com/RgmT6lz7Yz
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) March 12, 2019
Themba Zwane should have killed the game off with 14 minutes before the final whistle, but fluffed his lines.
Nazeer Allie committed a blunder as he failed to clear the ball, and it fell in the path of Zwane, who shot wide.
Makaringe finally got better of Onyango in the 85th minute. He profited from the scramble in the box.
Maritzburg kept on probing, but the equaliser never came as they suffered a home defeat under the regime of Tinkler.