PRETORIA - It may look like Absa Premiership log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns laboured for this victory if the scoreline, and the fact that it took a goal from the penalty spot to win the match, is looked at in isolation.
But it was actually quite a breeze, the only negative being that the Brazilians didn’t absolutely hammer a Golden Arrows side that ‘parked the bus’, to use a term that’s become popular among coaches when opposition teams sit back and absorb the pressure.
Sundowns really did put in the hard yards in trying to break a resolute defence that only gave in just once when leftback Zolani Nkombelo brought down Sibusiso Vilakazi in the box, leaving the referee Khulasande Qongqo no choice but to point to the spot.
Defender Ricardo Nascimento calmly slotted the ball home past goalkeeper Max Mbaeva, but nothing else was able to go beyond him after that and the match went on to finish 1-0.
Sundowns played like they were in a training session, given the ball possession they enjoyed, but their transitions and occasional threat on goal never helped them increase their tally. Percy Tau, their leading goal scorer with 11 so far this season, was again full of energy and idea, combining well with Vilakazi upfront as well as midfielder Gaston Sirino.
But visitors Arrows stayed compact and looked to catch the home side on the break. They could have even have had a penalty awarded following a foul on substitute Knox Mutizwa with 10 minutes left on the clock. Sundowns were also denied another spot kick in the first half when Tau appeared to be hacked down in the box.
The striker finally had the ball in the back of the net later in the second half, but was adjudged to have handled it before squeezing it under a fully stretched Mbaeva.
While the Brazilians will bemoan the lack of killer instinct, coach Pitso Mosimane will remember his statements two weeks ago that at this stage of the season it really doesn’t matter how they win.
The three points in Tshwane on Tuesday night pushed Sundowns six points ahead of title rivals Orlando Pirates with three games remaining. This now means Mosimane and his men need just one more victory to be confirmed as champions for the eighth time in the Premier League era, and that win could come on Wednesday next week away to Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
Pirates will still be looking to spoil the party, but they do not have their destiny in their own hands and will possibly aim for second place, which qualifies them for the CAF Champions League next season, as consolation.
Sundowns now switch their attention to the Nedbank Cup semifinals where they face Maritzburg in the first of their back-to-back fixtures against the same team, but that they are edging ever so close to another championship will be in their minds constantly until its officially that they are league winners.