Downs slip up in title race

The Brazilians were left frustrated by the resilient Ea Lla Koto defence, who stood firm against the dominant hosts and allowed them very few scoring opportunities. The result sees Sundowns close the gap on Matsatsantsa to five points, while Stars stay in mid-table on 29 points.

After a scrappy opening 15 minutes, Sundowns began to take control of the game. Kurt Lentjies saw his low pass across the face of goal turned behind for a corner-kick and then Matthew Booth, making his first start since returning to the Brazilians, had a goal correctly disallowed for offside after he turned home an 18th-minute free-kick.

Just before the half-hour mark, a testing cross from former Stars striker Diyo Sibisi forced James Matola into an important clearance to deny Surprise Moriri a scoring chance, and Duncan Lechesa then cleared Lentjies’ follow-up effort off the goal-line.

On 39 minutes Benedict Vilakazi latched onto a loose ball in the penalty area when Stars failed to clear their lines from a corner-kick, but the diminutive midfielder saw his goal-bound shot well saved by keeper Kennedy Mweene.

Somewhat surprisingly, there were no changes in personnel from either side at the start of the second half, particularly from Stars, who hadn’t managed a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

The hosts continued to create the better chances, and Lentjies perhaps should have made more of a headed effort in the 51st minute when he got on the end of Siboniso Gaxa’s cross.

A quick counter-attack from Sundowns in the 64th minute gave Moriri his first shooting chance of the night, but the attacker dragged his shot wide of goal. Three minutes later Moriri did find the target with his left foot, but Mweene made a comfortable save.

The Brazilians were almost sucker-punched with just five minutes left when Ruben Cloete was given a clear shooting chance inside the penalty area, but the Stars player was unable to keep his powerful effort down as the ball rocketed over the crossbar.