Hlompho Kekana acknowledges the Sundowns fans after scoring a trademark long-range goal against Maritzburg United at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

PRETORIA – The space between the centreline and the box now has a name – the Hlompho Kekana, named after the Mamelodi Sundowns’ captain, who owns the area.

Kekana took out his title deed on Wednesday night and reminded those who might have forgotten why he owns that area, and why no one can expropriate it from him without compensation, by scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Maritzburg United.

In doing so, he helped the Brazilians defeat Maritzburg United at Loftus Versfeld and move within five points of log-leaders Wits with three games in hand.

While many players view the Hlompho Kekana area as space to cover before punishing their opponents, the man from Zebediela views it as a shooting range, regardless of which part of it he is in.

Against Orlando Pirates he scored after making a few steps from the centreline and against Cameroon, in Bafana Bafana colours, he didn’t even bother to go past the halfway line, with an audacious strike in his own half.

That goal put him in the long-list for the Fifa Puskas award.

His strike on Wednesday won’t be in the running for the Puskas award, but it will go down in the Kekana highlight reel that showcases his power.

Richard Ofori tipped his first chance over the bar just after halftime, but five minutes before the hour mark, Kekana did what he does best – unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot outside the box to give his team the lead.

Before Kekana’s goal, Sundowns struggled to penetrate the Team of Choice’s reinforced defence. When they eventually broke them down, Ofori stood in front of them like a brick wall.

In the other end, Keletso Makgalwa troubled Ricardo Nascimento with his pace and trickery.

The Sundowns forward, who is on loan at the Team of Choice, played like a man possessed – driven to show his parent club that they made a mistake by releasing him. But his good work was let down by the slow response of his teammates, who took forever to get into Sundowns’ box and capitalise on the crosses that Makgalwa played.

The 22-year-old was constantly isolated after breaking free from Nascimento and Mosa Lebusa’s shackles.

While Makgalwa terrorised Sundowns’ defenders with his speed and skills, Themba Zwane was showing off on the other end with his composure and ability to slow down the game and then hit fast-forward in a blink of an eye.

Zwane’s artistry was missed by the Brazilians in his time on the sidelines, nursing the hamstring injury he picked up in the Bafana camp.

Despite both teams looking lively on the ball, they lacked the killer punch in the final third.  

Kekana changed all of that with his thunderous shot.

This was an important win for Sundowns, who will go into their clash with Wydad Casablanca on Saturday in the group stage of the Caf Champions League confident.

This loss further compounded Maritzburg’s woes, with the KZN Midlands side staring at the barrel of relegation.

It will take something special to get them out of this position due to their dreadful showing in front of goals.  

IOL Sport

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