Radebe sees off Downs

The match-winning goal was scored by David Radebe in the 12th minute. The Brazilians had a nightmare first half, but improved considerably in the second half, although they never really looked like scoring a goal.

The Brazilians were without their influential central midfielder Esrom Nyandoro, who will be out for four to six weeks, while the Birds gave Siphesihle Ngobese his first start of the season.

The game took a while to open up as both teams kept it tight in midfield. Sundowns got one or two slight chances, but, in general, they started the match at such a slow pace that the Swallows defence was never in any real danger.

Instead, the Birds opened the scoring in the 12th minute after Radebe was put through by Mark Haskins with the Sundowns defence sleeping. The striker's first attempt at goal was blocked by the Brazilians goalkeeper Calvin Marlin, but, with the defenders still fast asleep, Radebe did not miss on the rebound, 1-0.

The former Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits striker got an opportunity to extend Swallows' lead barely three minutes later, but this time Marlin worked the ball for a corner with his left foot, after his defenders were again outfoxed by Swallows' sharp passing and movement.

Sundowns seemed to play without any real ideas. Thando Mngomeni, playing on the wing, and Lerato Chabangu were running all over the place, often getting into the way of their teammates. In defence, former Chiefs centre-back Derrick Spencer struggled to get to grips with Swallows striker Radebe.

Morgan Shivambu and Cecil Oerson both got chances to add another goal for Swallows. Shivambu took too long to get a shot on goal from inside the box, while Oerson was through one-on-one with Brazilians keeper Marlin. But the Birds midfielder probably got such a scare that he opted for a weak chip, instead of rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball into the empty net. As a result, Marlin saved easily.

The home team started the game at a higher pace and with more determination in the second half, no doubt spurred into doing this by the half-time talk of their coach Henri Michel. Chabangu was moved to the right flank, playing more like a winger. The lack of width was one of the problems Sundowns had in the first half, as every attack went through the middle, which made it easy for the Birds to defend.

With things still not going to well, the French coach opted for a double substitution in the 54th minute with Benedict Vilikazi and Dillon Sheppard coming in for captain Surprise Moriri and the disappointing Mngomeni.

The double change nearly immediately resulted in a goal, but Sundowns midfielder Kurt Lentjies shot at goal was kept from going in on the line by Birds defender Vinicius da Silva.

The pressure slowly starting to build up on the Swallows defence. However, it was Radebe who should have finished the game in the 68th minute, but he shot wide from close range, when a striker of his quality should at least have hit the target.

In the end, despite having more than 70 percent ball possession at some stage during the second half, the Brazilians struggled to create any real goalscoring opportunities. It seems that new coach Michel is still trying to find his feet at Sundowns, unsure as yet of his style of play or starting combination. At the moment, it is back to the drawing board for the Frenchman.

Thanks to the win Swallows move to the fourth position on the Absa Premiership log on 18 points, while Sundowns languish in eighth position with 16 points.