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Goal scorer Jabulani Shongwe of Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo by Richard Huggard / Gallo Images.

Port Elizabeth - Mamelodi Sundowns climbed into the top half of the Premiership standings for the first time this season, courtesy of goals from Katlego Mphela, Jabulani Shongwe and Nyasha Mushekwi, as they ran out 3-0 winners over Maritzburg United in a league clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday evening.

The Brazilians headed into the clash on the back of a goalless draw with Kaizer Chiefs in midweek, while United were held by AmaZulu to the same scoreline in Durban, also earlier this week.

When the teams met earlier this season, a brace from Delron Buckley handed the Team of Choice a 2-1 victory, when Dutchman Johan Neeskens was still in charge of Sundowns, before getting the boot at the beginning of December following a string of poor results.

Maritzburg were boosted by the return of star striker Cuthbert Malajila, who had been out for three weeks with a ligament injury.

Meanwhile, Pitso Mosimane made two changes to his starting lineup that faced the Amakhosi, as Anthony Laffor replaced Mushekwi, while Abel Mabaso came in for the injured Ramahlwe Mphahlele in defence.

The visitors got off to a flying start and broke the deadlock in the fourth minute, as Mphela fired in his third goal of the season.

A free-flowing build-up from the Brazilians allowed Elias Pelembe to find Teko Modise on the edge of the area, with the midfielder using his chest to direct a neat pass into Mphela's path, before the Bafana Bafana international nudged the ball past goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters, who got a touch but was unable to keep the ball from trickling over the goal-line.

The sides struggled to threaten after the opener with much of the play taking place in the middle of the pitch, but Mosimane's men looked the more likely to make their chances count midway through the first half.

Sundowns had a fine opportunity to double their lead in the 24th minute, when a defensive blunder from United's Ruben Cloete allowed Laffor to put in a dangerous delivery across the goalmouth, but Mphela managed to miscue what appeared to be a simple tap-in, with Walters stranded and soundly beaten.

Sundowns came out into the second period looking to extend their lead and came close through Pelembe, who was denied by a solid Walters stop in the 49th minute, as the midfielder thundered his effort goalwards but from a tight angle and left of goal.

United had their best chance on the hour mark when Delron Buckley dispatched his free-kick effort on target, but Wayne Sandilands - who enjoyed a quiet first half - made a straightforward save, clutching the ball to his chest.

Shortly after, the Brazilians piled on the misery for their hosts, after Modise sparked a clinical counter-attack, laying off an accurate ball for Shongwe along the left flank, before the midfielder found the top left corner of the goal, successfully completing a splendid piece of attacking movement, rounded-off by a superb curling effort.

Sundowns completed their rout seven minutes from time, when an error from Maritzburg's Ghanian defender Mohammed Awal allowed Laffor to take the ball from Awal after he slipped, with Laffor finding Mushekwi in front of goal with no defenders in sight, before the second half replacement slotted home past Walters, who stood no chance from point blank range. - Sapa


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