Johannesburg – Champions Mamelodi Sundowns are an epitome of flamboyance – on and off the pitch. That much was established through their emphatic 3-2 victory over a side that has been threatening that status, Royal AM, at home on Wednesday afternoon.
Owned by businesswoman Shauwn Mkhize, Royal AM have been attracting attention in the top-flight for all the reasons, including ‘paying bonuses on the pitch’. But the classy and formal Sundowns have been doing what they know best: winning.
Currently they are top of the league with 34 points, 10 ahead of the second placed Sekhukhune United side. Royal AM, though, are fourth with 22 points after losing a match that more or less proved a margin between them and the Brazilians.
At some point, the Brazilians were 3-0 up by the 72nd minute, following a brace from Peter Shalulile and an early goal from Thabiso Kutumela. But such is the mentality of champions that at times they tend to things for granted, unnecessarily.
And so when striker Victor Letsoalo came off the bench to score a brace for the visitors, Sundowns were their worst enemy. After all, Andile Jali who walked away with the Man of the Man had done all to try and close shop in the engine room.
Sundowns, though, are the team that they think they are. It’s up to them to hit the top gear from the outset or warm up with the progression of the game. The latter rarely happens though – like it did during their draw with Stellies last weekend.
Royal AM, though, had to endure their wrath from the start here as the home side were a goal up in less than 10 minutes into the game. Thapelo Morena whipped in a telling cross that Mzwanele Mahashe poorly cleared back into the box.
That resultant ball fell for Kutumela who needed no second invite, unleashing a low and hard shot into the bottom corner. That was just a firm statement from the Brazilians who were already showing signs of taking control from the outset.
It was a sort of start from this Brazilians side’ that you’d bet had their best players on the park, only to be halted by Rulani Mokwena’s pre-match comments who said their four changes were enforced by both medical and injury reasons.
But such is the depth of this Sundowns team that players can fit in like a glove. And when Rushine De Reuck doubled up as a central defender and midfielder, replacing Rivaldo Coetzee, there was nothing surprising about his adaptation.
He fitted like a glove, breaking up play and making crucial clearances. But perhaps, the return of Neo Maema was the most anticipated. He had scored in his last two matches before missing the clash against Stellies due to a knock.
He's not the busiest of players on the park, but one of the most effective. And so, when Maema nearly doubled Sundowns’ tally with what could have been his trademark strike, having unleashed a shot with his right foot, he showed his mettle.
But perhaps, it would be untoward and a lie to say Royal AM were not part of the occasion. They were. However, it was some experienced goalkeeping from Kennedy Mweene who denied them the leveller – and lead - in the first half.
However, an eventful second stanza followed. Shalulile missed a sitter. But he wouldn’t be at fault twice, putting away a pin-point effort. However, it was another Jali special that ensured that they were 3-0 up ahead of the last 18 minutes.
Jali raced down the flank, by-passing his markers before finding Aubrey Modiba who picked up Shalulile. But Letsoalo pulled one back after a pass from Potsane before he completed the brace after Thando Ndzandzeka awarded a soft penalty.