Mamelodi Sundowns won their 15th league game in a row on Saturday, defeating Orlando Pirates 1-0 at a sold-out Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
Sundowns’ victory was far from pretty, with Pirates dominating most of the possession, but it was even sweeter because it came in their rivals’ backyard.
With this win, the Brazilians extended their lead at the top of the table to 24 points, putting them on track for a record sixth consecutive DStv Premiership title.
This was also the best homecoming for coach Rhulani Mokwena’s team, who will now focus on the CAF Champions League group stage in the coming days.
However, playing in the Champions League next season remains the ultimate goal for Pirates. But they’ll be conscious that they’ll need to perform better right away.
They failed to score today after scoring nine goals in their previous three victories following the arrival of striker coach Scott Chickelday.
Coach Jose Riveiro will take positives from their performance, but he will most likely be disappointed by Masixole Bambiso’s refereeing.
Both Pirates and Sundowns had enjoyed a purple patch coming into this game, but it was the latter who duly wore the favourite’s tag.
And it was against his former club that Rhulani Mokwena sent out his best players in search of an unprecedented 15th win in a row.
Mokwena had used a makeshift team in their previous two matches, rubbing salt in the wounds of their detractors who had complained about their financial muscle.
Sundowns were almost certain to build from the back, exploiting spaces, as Ronwen Williams and Teboho Mokoena returned in goals and midfield, respectively.
But Pirates coach Jose Riveiro appeared to have foreseen that threat by starting with the trio Thabang, Monare, Miguel Timm, and Goodman Mosele.
Sundowns, on the other hand, hit top gear from the start, with Cassius Mailula putting his side ahead in the sixth minute after a clumsy clearance from Mosele.
Pirates didn’t give up, as their fans cheered them on with each foray, and Monnapule Saleng was a thorn in Sundowns’ defence.
Despite their dominance, Pirates had so few chances that the stadium erupted after Thabang Monare appeared to be fouled in the box.
However, referee Masixole Bambiso ignored the call, forcing the Pirates to find other ways to breach Williams’ solid defence this season.
The game resumed with the Pirates continuing to dominate, with Saleng and captain Innocent Maela dictating traffic on their left flank.
Those exploits that kept ‘the Ghost’ on their feet bore no fruit, and substitute Vincent Pule was unlucky after rattling the upright.
Mailula nearly brought Orlando to a halt after twisting and turning in the box after chasing the ball for the better part of the second half.
However, Sipho Chaine brilliantly saved Mailula’s final goal, giving the Sea Robbers some hope heading into the final minutes of action at home.
Mailula, on the other hand, had done enough to win the Brazilians the game earlier, as they secured their 15th straight win at their opponents’ home.