Phakamani Mahlambi is congratulated by Mamelodi Sundowns teammates after scoring the decisive goal against Free State Stars on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – Mamelodi Sundowns successfully defended their Premiership title after claiming a 1-0 win over Free State Stars at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.

The match was always going to have massive ramifications, with the title and top-flight status on the line for the visitors and hosts respectively.

Ea Lla Koto started brightly and dominated almost the entire first half as Sundowns were slow out of the blocks as nerves kicked in.

A rare forage into the Stars final third saw Gaston Sirino go close, but Sangare palmed away the chance with 20 minutes to play in the half.

That shot sparked the home side into action as Sibusiso Hlubi tested goalkeeper Denis Onyango from range.

The Ugandan No 1 was then quickly called in to defending his line as Hlubi and Harris Tchilimbou fired off two good efforts.

Phakamani Mahlambi made an early entrance, with Sirino withdrawn in the 36th minute due to a groin strain.

It was the substitute who held his nerve two minutes before the break as he handed his side the lead after some slick passing deep inside opposition territory.

The second half was an exhibition in game management as Pitso Mosimane instructed his side to sit back and defend the lead.

Chances were few and far between on either side of the park as Sundowns continued to wind down the clock, safe in the knowledge that Mahlambi’s goal, and the clean sheet would be enough to ensure yet another trophy to add to their cabinet.

Free State Stars pushed Eleazar Rodgers on to the park, and the former Sundowns front-man did create a few half-chances, but Onyango was never troubled.

The packed Goble Park was drowned in noise from the visiting fans, who sang and danced their afternoon away before the referee’s final blow of the whistle came.

With it came the title for Sundowns, and automatic relegation for Free State Stars.

African News Agency (ANA)