Mamelodi Sundowns got back to winning ways in the Premiership following a 2-1 hard-fought victory over relegation threatened Baroka FC on Saturday.
Following the surprise 2-0 defeat to SuperSport United on Wednesday, Sundowns needed a response against Baroka in order to get their title defence aspirations back on track.
However, they needed to dig deep at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane this afternoon in order to close the gap between themselves and pacesetters Orlando Pirates to just three points, while they still have a game in hand.
Sundowns’ efforts to multitask between their continental and domestic duty is slowly but gradually taking a toll on the players, as coach Pitso Mosimane has been forced to play his troops who have been on the fringes.
Against Baroka, the Brazilians looked like the sharper side as they hit the top gear from outset, as Sibusiso Vilakazi had a chance to put his team in the lead after a great combination play with Lebohang Maboe, only for goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze to make a wonderful save.
Thapelo Morena was next to ask questions on Chipezeze’s goalposts, but the latter proved to be equal to the task – doing his best to keep Bakgaga in the game.
Hlompho Kekana, who’s known for his famous long-range strikes, also took a dig through a close range free kick, but his effort sailed into the stands.
However, Vilakazi, who is in a race against time to impress national coach Stuart Baxter for the Africa Cup of Nations squad following a long injury layoff, did enough to win his team a penalty as they went to the interval a goal up.
Ricardo Nascimento stepped up to take the responsibility and converted.
But Telkom Knockout champions Bakgaga would put themselves level with the PSL champions Sundowns through striker Onkabetse Makgantai early into the second stanza.
But Themba Zwane put on his scoring boots to ensure that his team were in the driving seat yet again after being teed up by Maboe.
From there onwards, skipper Kekana took the matters into his own hands, as he stabilised his team’s engine room to ensure that they secured their lead and bagged all three points.
While Sundowns were cruising, Baroka had to deal with a severe blow after Rodwell Chinyengetere got his marching orders following a horrendous foul on Kekana.
The Brazilians’ victory might have not been pretty, but they’ll gladly welcome the full points, especially with the ongoing pending case against Wayne Arendse.
Sundonws’ next assignment will be home to another team that faces the axe, Chippa United, on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Baroka will be hoping to climb up the log as they travel to Goble Park to face Free State Stars, who are also languishing in the drop zone on Wednesday.@Mihlalibaleka