Mamelodi sundowns closer to the DSTV premiership with a win over mariztburg United

Ricardo Nascimento scored from the penalty spot in the first half, while Gift Motupa netted the cushioning goal midway through the second stanza in an entertaining game.

The Brazilians were gunning to collect maximum points to stretch the gap between Benni McCarthy’s second-place AmaZulu.

Usuthu has climbed from the bottom pile on the log table to threaten Masandawana’s chances of securing a fourth straight league title.

With just one game in hand, Sundowns (54 points) are now four points ahead of AmaZulu (50 points), who have played 26 games.

Meanwhile, Maritzburg (25 points) continue to push for league safety under Ernst Middendorp, and the defeat leaves the KwaZulu-Natal side in the 13th position.

Much was riding on this match for both sides from the get-go as the first half whistle sounded.

Masandawana rattled the back of the net as early as the fifth minute through Mosa Lebusa, but his effort was flagged offside.

Soon after, Peter Shalulile hit the woodwork twice.

The first opportunity came when the Namibian smartly played himself onside and sneakily struck an effort against the upright before the German goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt parried the ball for a corner-kick. Shalulile rose above everyone to header the ball with power towards goal from the corner-kick, but Engelhardt pushed the ball against the crossbar.

Maritzburg held their nerve as the Brazilians added the pressure with much intent. That calmness almost landed them the chance to score first from a free kick.

Nascimento allowed the ball to bounce, which then floated over the defender’s head. Bongokuhle Hlongwane sneaked in behind and controlled the ball with his chest, only for Dennis Onyango to apply the pressure needed to distract the forward to miss the target.

Eventually, with all that possession, a Sundowns goal prevailed.

Gift Motupa forced veteran Clayton Daniels into a tough spot in the Maritzburg box. The former SuperSport United defender, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Sundowns forward, clipped the player by the heel and referee Abongile Tom gave a penalty.

Ricardo Nascimento then assured Sundowns’ 1-0 lead from the spot.

The action did not stop there, and before the half-time whistle, through a Sundowns defensive mishap, Hlongwane latched onto the ball and darted forward with confidence into the box.

The 20-year-old let off a low curling strike that beat Onyango, but to Sundowns relief, it went narrowly wide.

The second half proved to be defensively more compact for Maritzburg but with greater urgency to equalise.

But Motupa ended Maritzburg’s hopes of getting something out of the game.

Nascimento whipped in a cross from the left flank, with Mothobi Mvala teeing up Motupa in the box, whose strike fizzled past Engelhardt.

The Brazilians are back in action on Sunday, 9 May against TS Galaxy, while Maritzburg face crosstown rivals Golden Arrows on Wednesday, 12 May.

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