Unbeaten Down squeeze past Maritzburg

Premiership

Mamelodi Sundowns restored their three-point lead at the top of the DStv Premiership with a 1-0 triumph over Maritzburg United on Wednesday evening.

Divine Lunga, Neo Maema, Haashim Domingo and Pavol Safranko came into the Sundowns XI for Lyle Lakay, Thabiso Kutumela, Thapelo Morena and Rivaldo Coetzee. Meanwhile, Maritzburg head coach Ernst Middendorp made one change to his starting lineup with Siphelele Ntshangase replacing Rowan Human.

Maritzburg were pressing Sundowns effectively and forcing the Brazilians into uncharacteristically losing possession quite regularly in the opening exchanges.

However, Sundowns began to gradually push the Team of Choice deeper and deeper into their own half and despite having the vast majority of possession and territory they were not fashioning any clear cut-chances.

Finally, a chance arrived in the 36th minute and it was a good one. Peter Shalulile was played in down the left-hand side of the box by Neo Maema and he cut inside but side-footed over the near-post bar from close range.

The Brazilians set yet another record in the first half as the longest period that a side has not conceded in the Premier Soccer League era.

The champions came close again in the 53rd minute. They won the ball back on the half-way line and Themba Zwane played a good ball between the lines for Safranko, who struck an accurate towards the bottom left corner and Maritzburg goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt produced an excellent save.

The hosts deservedly took the lead soon after. It was beautiful one-touch football before Maema played a raking long ball over the top, which Shalulile brilliantly side-footed on the volley over Engelhardt and into the bottom left corner.

On the hour mark, Maritzburg had a rare attempt as Lifa Hlongane picked the ball up 35 yards out and almost curled the ball into the top-left corner but it grazed the outside of the upright.

Shalulile had a chance to grab his brace. Domingo put a dangerous free-kick in towards the far post, where Mothobi Mvala was lurking. Engelhardt made an uncharacteristic error as he missed it but Shalulile couldn't turn home.

Confirmed line-ups:

Sundowns: Pieterse, Lebusa, Lunga, Mudau, G. Kekana, Jali, Domingo, Maema, Zwane, Safranko, Shalulile.

Subs: Mweene, Morena, Lakay, Kapinga, Mkhulise, Motupa, Nascimento, Vilakazi, Mvala.

Maritzburg: Engelhardt, Allie Ndengane, Rae, Bhengu, Ntshangase, Kewuti, Graham, Claasen, B. Hlongwane, Soukouna.

Subs: Petersen, Ismail, L.Hlongwane, Zumah, Skelem, Zondi, Human

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