By Sports Focus Reporter
The resurgence of Mamelodi Sundowns’ Absa Premiership title bid continued on Wednesday evening when they claimed a comfortable 2-0 win away to Mpumalanga Black Aces at the Mbombela Stadium near Nelspruit.
The victory, secured courtesy of goals from Matthew Pattison and Katlego Mphela, pushed the Brazilians to within a point of third-placed Kaizer Chiefs and added another nail to the coffin of AmaZayoni, who are surely destined to play second-tier football next season.
Aces actually put up a strong performance considering they had to play nearly two thirds of the game with a man’s disadvantage. Sundowns also ended the game with just ten men, though it was not a dirty or mean-spirited affair by any means.
The opening 30 minutes provided entertaining end-to-end action, as both Aces and Sundowns looked intent on playing an attacking game.
The visitors threatened through the likes of Katlego Mphela, Elias Pelembe and Richard Henyekane, while AmaZayoni’s on-loan stars Joseph Makhanya and David Mathebula carved out a couple of good opportunities for their strikers that were not capitalised on.
Sundowns effectively wrapped up the game in a five-minute spell after the half hour mark that saw them score two goals either side of a harsh sending off for Aces defender Marc Eberle.
First, in the 32nd minute, the Brazilians opened the scoring through Matthew Pattison, who latched onto a square pass from Elias Pelembe and provided a superb finish into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later, AmaZayoni were reduced to ten men when centre-back Eberle was shown a straight red card by referee Charl Theron for a foul on Richard Henyekane just outside the penalty area.
Television replays suggested that the decision was incredibly harsh: Eberle’s foul was neither malicious nor particularly late, and Aces had James Madidilani coming across to cover, thus the German defender was not clearly denying the Sundowns striker a goal scoring opportunity.
Aces would have felt hugely aggrieved at the decision, but their anger was compounded when Mphela scored a superb goal direct from the free kick that was awarded for Eberle’s foul, making it 2-0 to Sundowns in the 37th minute.
The hosts reshuffled somewhat at the start of the second half, sending on Lindokuhle Mbhatha in place of Madidilani to give them more balance in their ten-man line-up.
And, although they were at a numerical disadvantage, Aces actually looked the likelier scorers in the first 20 minutes or so of the second stanza. Both Myron Shongwe and Mpho Maleka fluffed free headers in the penalty area, while Makhanya was unlucky to see a superb long range shot rebound off the underside of the crossbar with Wayne Sandilands well beaten.
Sundowns themselves hit the woodwork in the 67th minute, with Mphela’s shot skimming the top of the bar after substitute Nyasha Mushekwi had made a mess of a good scoring chance of his own before teeing up a chance for ‘Killer’.
The Brazilians also ended the game with ten men after substitute Surprise Moriri picked up two unnecessary bookings in the mere 26 minutes he was on the pitch. However, it wasn’t enough to spark any kind of comeback from the hosts.
A goal in either half by Anthony Laffor saw SuperSport United beat Moroka Swallows 3-0 in an Absa Premiership match at Loftus stadium on Wednesday evening, and thus extending the gap between themselves and the teams at the bottom of the log.
The game’s other goal was scored by Fikru Lemasse.
The first 45 minutes saw the home side in complete control early on and for the first time this season the Matsatsantsa looked like the side that had previously won three PSL league titles.
It was almost the perfect start for SuperSport as Tebogo Langerman came within inches of finding the game’s opening goal in the first minute. A swift and accurate passing movement allowed Langerman to find some space inside the box, but his 12-yard shot skimmed the wrong side of the upright.
Besides from the fact that United were completely on top of them, the evening got even worse for Swallows when Shere Lekgothoane injured himself and had to be replaced by Keegan Ritchie in the fourth minute.
This early set-back affected the Dube Birds even more as United’s pressure on their goal increased with every passing minute.
In the 11th minute Dipsy Selolwane came agonising close to opening the scoring when his powerful 20-yard shot sailed inches past the right-hand upright.
Then, finally, in the 17th minute the Matsatsantsa found the goal they deserved. Anthony Laffor showed some great skill to magnificently volley home from 25-yards out for possibly one of the goals of the season, 1-0.
As the half progressed Swallows began to find their footing in the game and were able to hold onto the ball for sustained periods of time. Still, though, the Dube Birds struggled to create decent goal scoring opportunities.
And when the Birds did create a chance they seemed to squander it. An example of this was in the 36th minute when Oscar Machapa rose above the United defence to head a cross goalwards, but he did so with little power and straight at Rowen Fernandez.
United had the last say in the half when they so nearly found the game’s second goal. Ricardo Katza supplied a pin point cross to find Langerman unmarked inside the box, but his header went over the crossbar when he should have at least hit the target.
The second half continued in the same fashion as United controlled matters on the field of play. Still, the Swallows defence seemed to hold strong as they were stubborn in their resistance.
In the 57th minute, however, the Birds were almost their own worst enemy when Greg Etafia fumbled a routine save from an 18-yard Laffor shot, but he quickly pounced on the loose ball to rectify matters.
Five minutes later, though, and Etafia was at his best making a magnificent save diving full stretch to his right to tip a Glen Salmon shot around the post.
But then only a minute later Etafia caused his team a world of hurt when he dragged down Mario Booysen inside the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Laffor stepped up and made no mistake to double his side’s lead, 2-0.
After going two goals down the Birds tried to find their way back into the match, but to no avail when Fikru Lemasse sealed matters in the 85th minute with SuperSport’s third goal, finishing from close range, 3-0.
The game ended 3-0 to United and Swallows slipped further into the relegation battle.
SuperSport United (1) 3 (Laffor 17’ + 64’ pen, Lemasse 85’
Bidvest Wits got back to winning ways when they prevented Ajax Cape Town from going atop the Absa Premiership standings, beating them 2-0 in a league match played at the Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The first 45 minutes saw the home side controlling the majority of the play and having the better opportunities on goal.
Ajax, on the other hand, really looked at sixes and sevens, both in defence and attack, and only really came to life after going a goal behind in the 41nd minute.
The visiting side, however, did get the first shot on goal in the seventh minute. Thulani Serero let fly from about 25-yards out, but the shot was comfortably saved by Darren Keet.
After that initial shot on goal Ajax retreated into their shells as Wits took full control of the game.
Stanton Fredricks came within inches of finding the game’s opening goal in the eighth minute when he saw his 20-yard shot skimming the wrong side of the crossbar.
Then in the 25th minute Wits should really have taken the lead had it have not been but for some poor finishing. The chance on goal came because Ajax failed to clear their lines at a corner-kick which resulted in a goal mouth scramble.
Initially, Sipho Mngomezulu had the first shot, but it was cleared off the line straight into the path of Sifiso Myeni who pulled his shot left from only ten yards out.
Thereafter, the Students continued to press forward and finally found the goal they deserved in the 41st minute. Sifiso Vilakazi scored a peach of goal when he drove a 30-yard shot into the top right hand corner, 1-0.
The goal saw Ajax awaken from their slumber and they started to create some decent chances just before the half time break. The closest they came to finding the back of the net, however, was an 18-yard shot struck by Serero which hit the post.
The second half was also not a dull affair and we had drama as early as four minutes in when Derrick Spencer was shown a straight red card for a dangerous foul on Lebogang Manyama.
After being reduced to ten men Wits tried to get numbers behind the ball and defend their lead with the hope of hitting on the counter-attack.
Ajax, obviously, pressed forward and again hit the bar in the 61st minute. This time Terror Fanteni was the unlucky man who saw his 12-yard shot strike the woodwork.
Darren Keet was kept busy in the Students goal and pulled off a number of good saves, once to deny Khama Billiat in the 65th minute and another time to deny Serero three minutes later.
And then, almost as planned, Wits launched a quick counter-attack in the 76th minute which saw Ryan Chapman play a perfectly waited pass to Sifiso Myeni inside the box. The Wits man made no mistake with a clinical finish from 12-yards out to double his side’s lead, 2-0.
Thereafter Ajax continued to launch attack after attack, but they could simply not break down a stubborn Wits defence and the game ended 2-0.
Bidvest Wits (1) 2 (Sifiso Vilakazi 41’, Sifiso Myeni 76’)
Ajax Cape Town (0) 0