Mamelodi Sundowns moved eight points clear at the top of the DStv Premiership after defeating Orlando Pirates 2-0 on Friday evening.
Result: Mamelodi Sundowns 2-0 Orlando Pirates
Date: 30 December 2022
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Abubaker Nasir returned from a long-term injury to make only his second start, as Cassius Mailula dropped to the bench for the Brazilians. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers had goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane in goal following the injury of Richard Ofori but Vincent Pule and Innocent Maela returned from injuries.
Sundowns were asking Pirates questions from the off, in wet and slippery surface and Marcelo Allende almost gave them the lead on eight minutes with a clever set-piece that forced Mpontshane into a last-ditch save.
Jose Riveiro's charges were happy to look for chances on counter-attacks and Monnapule Saleng had a great opportunity a couple of minutes after twisting past Mothobi Mvala in the box but his left-footed curler brought the best out of shot-stopper Ronwen Williams.
The Sea Robbers started to get the upper hand around the half-hour mark as Tapelo Xoki came close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful header that was parried away from underneath the crossbar by Williams.
Rulani Mokwena's troops had a good response though, as Mvala eventually gave them the lead just before the interval with a well-placed header in the box from a set-piece for his first league goal.
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The Brazilians suffered an injury blow moments later after Mpontshane clattered into Nasir's knee after a clearing a ball in the box and the Ethiopian, who was stretchered off the pitch by the paramedics, did not return for the second stanza and was replaced by Mailula.
Pirates took time to get going early in the second stanza and Riveiro made a tactical and attacking change towards the hour-mark, as Deon Hotto was sacrificed for striker Zakhele Lepasa.
However, the home side remained in control as Mailula doubled their lead just after the hour-mark with a tap-in after Mpontshane could only parry Neo Maema's shot.
With Masandawana threatening on counter-attacks as Pirates pushed for a goal, Themba Zwane had a big chance to kill off the game in the last 13 minutes after racing clear on goal but his shot was saved by Mpontshane.
Sundowns continued to have glaring chances on the break towards the end, as opposed to the Buccaneers, as Haashim Domingo blazed an effort over the crossbar with only Mpontshane to beat before Mailula was fluffed a big chance clear on goal.
Sandile Mthethwa almost pulled a goal back for Pirates in stoppage time with a long range effort that rattled the post, as log leaders Sundowns held on to stretch their winning run to seven matches and widened the gap ahead of the Buccaneers to 12 points.
Here's how they lined up:
Mamelodi Sundowns: 30. Williams, 27. Morena, 4. Kekana, 34. Mvala, 25. Mudau, 4. Mokoena, 11. Allende, 35. Maema, 18. Zwane, 10. Sirino, 28. Nasir
Subs: 14. D.Onyango, 28. De Reuck, 21. Mkhulise, 37. Ngobeni, 23. Domingo, 15. Jali, 24. Mbule, 19. Motupa, 33. Mailula
Orlando Pirates: 40. Mpontshane, 2. Monyane, 27. Xoki, 5. Sibisi, 23. Maela, 14. Saleng, 6. Motshwari, 4. Timm, 7. Hotto, 45. Pule, 95. Erasmus
Subs: 34. Chaine, 26. Shandu, 29. Mako, 39. Mthethwa, 16. Monare, 18. Dlamini, 15. Nldondlo, 11. Makaringe, 25. Lepasa
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