Mamelodi Sundowns put any internal conflict firmly behind them yesterday, as they made an early title statement with a 2-0 DStv Premiership win at home to Kaizer Chiefs.
Grant Kekana, with his first goal for the club, and Peter Shalulile, with his first league goal of the season, struck in either half as Stuart Baxter’s Amakhosi had their moments, Lebo Manyama even missing a late penalty, but some weak defending cost them dearly.
Sundowns co-head coach Rulani Mokwena had, in the week, admitted a bit of infighting between him and fellow coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela. But any problems spilling down to the players didn’t show, as the four-time-reigning champions move to seven points from their opening three matches, setting the early Premiership pace.
Chiefs started the game on the front foot, Njabulo Blom fizzing a ball across the face of goal, before Keagan Dolly almost netted against his former club, volleying inches over the bar.
Amakhosi, however, paid the price in the 8th minute as they failed to pick up Kekana at the back post from a free kick, and his header flew past Bruce Bvuma, for the former SuperSport United man’s first goal for Masandawana.
Sundowns got some impetus from their opener, and Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus both put efforts off target. The challenges were flying in, and Andile Jali and Samir Nurkovic were soon fronting up, with referee Luxolo Badi having to intervene.
Nurkvoic should have levelled the scores in the 28th minute, as Dolly found him with a delightful cross that flew over the onrushing Denis Onyango, but the Serbian striker headed over an open goal.
Some quick thinking from Bvuma then sent Jkhama Billiat flying away down the left, but his cross was cleared by a backpedalling Rivaldo Coetzee.
In the second half, Nurkovic rather needlessly got himself in the book for tugging on Themba Zwane’s shirt, while Rushine De Reuck then also saw yellow for an elbow that landed on Nurkovic.
From the resultant Billiat free kick, Daniel Cardoso flicked on and Onyango produced an excellent close-range save to deny Sifiso Hlanti.
Sundowns brought on Neo Maema and Thabiso Kutumela for Kermit Erasmus and Gaston Sirino, and Maema had an almost instant impact, as he got to the byline in the 63rd minute and crossed for Shalulile, who finished past Bvuma.
Chiefs had come back from two goals down in the MTN8 quarterfinals, but this time there was no recovery, with Manyama coming off the bench on his return from injury, but hitting the bar from the spot after Coetzee had handled inside the area.