PRETORIA – The challenge has been set by the Brazilians, catch us if you can. The seven-time South African champions delivered that message in style with a comfortable 4-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic.
This win stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches, six of those are victories with one draw against Chippa United.
The 19 points Sundowns collected in that run will give them a good cushion going into the short Christmas break before the league resumes on the first weekend of January. Sundowns can stretch that lead even more in their last game of the year here on Tuesday against Cape Town City.
Sundowns have managed to do what many clubs have struggled with this season, being consistent. This season has been characterised by inconsistency with clubs struggling to put together long unbeaten runs with wins.
The Brazilians have done that easily after they shook off their slow start. Sundowns have looked comfortable at the summit since dethroning Baroka FC last month. With each win, thanks to the high number of goals they score, their fans are starting to believe that they can retain the league they lost to Bidvest Wits last season.
Celtic were schooled without their coach Veselin Jelusic who is also a professor. The Serbian, who holds a PhD in Physical Education with a focus on football from the University Of Belgrade, is in his homeland to work on his Uefa A License.
Jelusic’s assistant Lehlohonolo Seema took over the team in his absence. Phunya Sele Sele knew that they were in for a tough afternoon against a rampant team that wanted to put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack. Celtic absorbed the pressure from the Brazilians with the intention of hitting them on a counter.
That approach required defensive discipline from Celtic. They didn’t consistently have that discipline. Sundowns made them pay for it by firing four past Patrick Tignyemb. It could have been worse had Sundowns been more clinical. Pitso Mosimane probably had stern words with his players and they responded by scoring four goals in the second half.
The difference between these two club’s attack was that Celtic were more dynamic and direct. Sundowns were patient and passed the ball around which gave the visitors time to regroup to form their rigid wall that required something special to breach it.
Thokozani Sekotlong’s bullet and Tiyani Mabunda’s thunderbolt were that something special. The Mamelodi-born forward, Sekotlong, scored his second goal in Sundowns’ colours in front of his home crowd with a bullet of a header. Tiyani Mabunda produced something even more special with his thunderbolt outside the country that made him thank a higher power after it.
Victor Letsoalo looked the most likely to score for Celtic. He easily peeled away from Sundowns’ slow central defence pairing of Wayne Arendse and Madisha. But the 24-year-old forward wasn’t wearing the scoring boots that helped him score a brace on Sunday last week against Free State Stars in the Free State derby.
Celtic’s leftback, Ronald Pfumbidzai, had his scoring boots on. He finished a move that was started by Kabelo Mahlasela who hit the post. But Percy Tau retained Sundowns’ two-goal before Themba Zwane ended the match as a contest to ensure that the three points stay in the capital to increase the belief of an eighth league title.