Johannesburg – Mamelodi Sundowns produced their most authoritative performance of the season to outplay Orlando Pirates 1-0 in their Premiership match at Orlando Stadium on Saturday to remain in contention for the title.
The Brazilians still remain in second position, eight points behind defending champions Kaizer Chiefs with a game in hand.
The one-goal scoreline flattered an uncharacteristically listless Buccaneers, who were outthought and outplayed in all departments.
The decisive, but elusive winning goal in the 62nd minute was scored with a scorching, first-time piledriver from bustling Hlompho Kekana.
No one, however, could have been more delighted by the breakthrough goal than diminutive Zimbabwean international Khama Billiat, who had five gilt-edged, but fruitless opportunities of scoring for Sundowns before Kekana came to the party.
The 23-year-old Billiat, who was signed by Sundowns from Ajax Cape Town at the start of the season, will have nightmares about his finishing on this occasion.
Further first-half chances put on a plate for Billiat by Elias Pelembe and Teko Modise were also squandered by the Zimbabwean, who was unlucky when a calculated header in the 51st minute hit the crossbar.
Pirates first on-target shot on goal only materialised in the 60th minute when Helder Pelembe's speculative shot from 25 metres was comfortably saved by Zambian international Kennedy Mweene in the Sundowns' goal.
Added to the Buccaneers' woes was an injury suffered by goalkeper Senzo Mayiweain a futile effort to save Kekana's match-winner.
It was a reflection of the course of the game, however, that Pirates' best scoring opportunity materialised only after the scheduled 90 minutes, with substitute Kermit Erasmus' close-range, angled shot striking the post.
A draw would have been a grave injustice for Sundowns, with the Buccaneers left with a lot to think about as they are still 16
points behind Chiefs even though they have four games in hand.
The man who will have to pick up the pieces is new coach Eric Tinkler, who moved up from the assistant's role to replace Roger de Sa.
It was Sundowns in the ascendancy from the opening whistle, with Billiat's first scoring opportunity materialising as early as the third minute. – Sapa