Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns have taken another step toward a fifth successive DStv Premiership title after they defeated Swallows FC 4-2 at the Dobsonville Stadium on Wednesday night.
A trio of goals from Peter Shalulile — the first hat-trick of the season — inspired the Brazilians to their 16th league win of the campaign and re-opened an 11-point advantage at the summit of the log, with nearest chasers Royal AM having temporarily brought the leaders’ advantage down to single figures with their win at Marumo Gallants earlier in the evening.
As for the Birds, this is an 11th defeat from 23 league games and sees them remain in the relegation playoff spot.
Sundowns sped into a two-goal lead inside the opening 15 minutes thanks to the deadly instincts of Peter Shalulile. The Namibian first struck in the 10th minute, nodding home George Maluleka’s cross from a short corner on the visitors’ left flank.
He then made it 2-0 on the quarter hour mark when he raced onto a ball over the top of the defence from Maluleka before firing past goalkeeper Thela Thela’s left hand on the half-volley.
The Brazilians appeared to be in full control, but Swallows halved the deficit immediately through Dillon Solomons, who scrapped his way into a shooting position on the right of the penalty area before firing a low shot which beat goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse at his near post.
Yet ‘Downs re-established a two-goal advantage on 28 minutes, with Bradley Ralani picking up a headed clearance from Wandisile Letlabika, cutting past one challenge and firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the net for 3-1.
The Brazilians were unlucky not to add a fourth on 37 minutes when Themba Zwane ran onto a through ball and shot past Thela — the assistant referee’s flag ruled out the goal, but replays showed that the midfielder had not strayed offside.
The Birds made no less than four changes at the start of the second half, sending on Ruzaigh Gamildien, Grant Margeman, Siphesihle Mbhele and Junaid Sait. They should have pulled a goal back early after the restart when Gamildien teed up Kagiso Malinga with a great chance, but the striker was denied by a fine save from Pieterse.
Monnapule Saleng also sent a shot just wide of the mark a short while later as Swallows continued their fight to get back into the game.
Sundowns went off the boil but were happy to sit on their lead and keep Swallows at arm’s length, with the hosts unable to really create any clear openings after their flurry of attacking activity early in the second half.
The match looked set for a tense finish when Gamildien pulled a goal back for Swallows on 88 minutes, sending a looping header from Kamohelo Mahlatsi’s cross beyond the reach of Pieterse.
Yet ‘Downs went up the other end and made it 4-2 in the final minute of regulation time, with Zwane’s low shot saved by Thela, only for Shalulile to chip home the rebound, complete his hat-trick and seal the three points for the visitors.
Sundowns and Swallows will return to DStv Premiership action next midweek, Tuesday 12 April, with clashes at home to Golden Arrows and away to Maritzburg United respectively.
In another Wednesday evening match, Cape Town City jumped to the fourth spot on the DStv Premiership standings after defeating Maritzburg United 1-0 at the Harry Gwala Stadium.