PRETORIA - Although fatigue is slowly creeping in, Absa Premiership log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns continue to press on in the quest to reclaim the title coach Pitso Mosimane believes they so easily surrendered to Bidvest Wits last season.
Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Chippa United did not embody how Sundowns usually do business, but it was, however, a clear indicator that the Brazilians somehow do not enjoy playing in front of their home crowd – whether it’s at Loftus Versfeld or at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.
Just three days after a highly charged 2-1 win over Cape Town City in the Mother City to progress to the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup, Sundowns were slow to pick up the pace against visitors Chippa.
In fact, the Chilli Boys could have been in the lead midway through the first half, with striker Linda Mntambo catching the defence square and finding himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Denis Onyango, who kept out the attempt.
And then a few minutes later, Mntambo was again faced with just Onyango to beat, but the Ugandan shot-stopper was alert to deny him for a second time.
A more clinical forward would have buried either one of those chances, if not both, but Mntambo is clearly rusty. Sundowns had survived a scare.
But when you have Percy Tau - the overwhelming favourite to clinch the Footballer of the Year award - and Khama Billiat - the 2016 recipient of the same accolade - in your team, chances are that you already have an upper hand on the opposition.
The duo would later get on the score sheet to guarantee Sundowns all three points and security at the top of the table, especially on a night when second placed Orlando Pirates maintained their own momentum to try and keep up.
Tau took his tally of goals to 10 in this campaign, just one shy of leader of the race for the Golden Boot award, Rodney Ramagalela.
He found space behind the Chippa defensive pair of James Okwuosa and Ayabulela Konqobe, who failed to deal with a low ball from midfielder Gaston Sirino. Tau might miss several chances throughout the game, but he usually doesn’t fluff an opportunity from that close inside the penalty box.
The Bafana striker remained a constant threat to the visitors back four throughout and allowed Billiat room to eventually make his mark later in the second half.
With the game probably on edge and the supporters tensing up upon hearing that Pirates were leading Bloemfontein Celtic in Soweto, ensuring that Sundowns lead would be cut to a point, even though they have a game in hand, Billiat put the game to bed by netting his seventh goal of the season.
Themba Zwane closely watched him make a run in between the centrebacks and intelligently sent him through on goal with a lovely back-heel and the Zimbabwean did the rest, squeezing the ball under a diving Daniel Akpeyi for Sundowns’ second of the night.
The Brazilians will be happy they are on the road this weekend, away to Baroka FC on Sunday, given that their away record is much better than their home form.