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Champions Sundowns open a 16-point gap at the top of the DStv Premiership

Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Rodric Kabwe of Sekhukhune United during their DStv Premiership match at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday

Peter Shalulile of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Rodric Kabwe of Sekhukhune United during their DStv Premiership match at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published May 3, 2022

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Cape Town — Mamelodi Sundowns, the reigning DStv Premiership champions, ground out a workmanlike 2-0 win over Sekhukhune United at the Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, on Tuesday evening.

Sundowns' win opened up a 16-point gap between themselves and second-placed side Royal AM. Sekhukhune will move into 10th position and it looks like a Top 8 berth is out of reach for them.

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Sundowns enjoyed an overwhelming 70% possession in the first half but had to settle for a lone goal which will rank among the best goals of the season. It was a ripsnorter from fullback Aubrey Modiba whose shot from about 40m out whistled past Sekhukhune goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata in the 28th minute.

It was Modiba's first Premiership goal this season and his second in two matches after he scored against Royal AM in the Nedbank Cup semi-final over the weekend. He came into the side at Lyle Lakay's expense.

Reyaad Pieterse donned the goalkeeper’s gloves in a rare start for Sundowns, who opted to rest the seasoned Ugandan international Denis Onyango. He was shaky at times and managed a first-half clean sheet even though, on two occasions, he did not gather the ball cleanly.

Apart from an early long-range shot from Modiba, Sundowns also tested the opposition defence with shots from Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Sirino who was happy to pull the trigger from outside the Sekhukhune penalty area.

First-half statistics show that Sundowns only had five shots at goal, against four from Sekhukhune, who had very little possession.

Sekhukhune's best chance of scoring came as early as the fourth minute after a break-out from deep inside their half, and midfielder Nkanyiso Madonsela transferred play into the opposition goalmouth after a run down the left flank. His cross was met by Sekhukhune shipper Yusuf Maart who skied his part shot after the Sundowns defence left him unmarked on the fringe of the penalty area.

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Just ahead of the halftime break, Zambian left-back Rodrick Kabwe came close with a well-taken free-kick, but Pieterse turned the ball away for a corner.

Three early second-half changes by Sundowns did not yield the desired reward immediately even though they managed to retain their overwhelming possession. Sirino, Neo Maema and Lebohang Maboe made way for Teboho Mokoena, Fransis Maraisane and Gift Motupa.

As the second half wore on, Sundowns managed a few scoring chances, but the best was an effort by Namibian Peter Shalulile who came agonizingly close six minutes from the end. He outstripped the retreating defence and the shot wide from an acute angle.

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Shalulile did. However, strike a minute into added injury time to wrap up a 2-0 win for the champions.

Strangely, Sekhukhune had the same number of shots on goal as Sundowns and at times it looked like they could burgle a point against the reigning champions before Shalulile's late goal.

Sundowns are back in action on Saturday when they travel to the FNB Stadium for a showdown against beleaguered Kaizer Chiefs who are in the worse form in their history.

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Sekhukhune will also be on the road and will go up against AmaZulu in KZN, in another Saturday clash.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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