Home Sport Sundowns draw level with Chiefs ‘halfway-record’ after win over Baroka FC

Sundowns draw level with Chiefs ‘halfway-record’ after win over Baroka FC

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Rivaldo Coetzee of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates his goal with teammates during the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match against Baroka at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria on 14 December 2021. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

With the win over Baroka FC, Mamelodi Sundowns’ target of a record-extending five straight league titles is getting closer and closer with each passing game.

CAPE TOWN – Once again table-toppers Mamelodi Sundowns made heavy weather of victory after dominating the possession stakes and had to settle for a slender 2-1 win over basement dwellers Baroka at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, on Tuesday evening.

With this result, Sundowns’ target of a record-extending five straight league titles remains on course.

They have opened a 15-point lead at the top of the standings as they reached the 40-point mark. At this stage, Sundowns have equalled Chiefs’ record of 40 points at the halfway stage of their 2014/15 title-winning season.

Bottom-placed Baroka will remain marooned at the foot-end of the table with 10 points.

Central striker Kermit Erasmus was given a rare start alongside Peter Shalulile and Themba Zwane in the three-pronged attack.

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Shalulile, presently the Premiership’s leading goalscorer with 12 goals, was forced to retire prematurely after suffering a mouth injury after an aerial challenge in the Baroka goalmouth. Apart from the injury he also appeared dizzy, and he was stretchered off in the 22nd minute.

Slovakian Pavol Safranko, who has been in good form this season and used largely as a substitute, replaced Shalulile.

Sundowns’ triumvirate suffered a further knock on the stroke of halftime when Erasmus was red-carded. The revered Eastern Cape referee Akhona ‘SheRef’ Makalima blew up play after Baroka’s Dan Ndlovu fouled Erasmus. In the heat of the moment, players from both sides started jostling and pushing.

Once Makalima restored calm, Ndlovu and Erasmus were yellow-carded and just as Makalima was ready to restart play, he drew a red card for Erasmus, seemingly for something he said that incurred the wrath of the lady referee.

With a man down, Sundowns restarted play with a free-kick by deadball specialist Lyle Lakay. His punt landed plumb in the Baroka penalty box. Sundowns defender Rushine de Rueck challenged for the ball, and in the mid-air collision with Baroka’s goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke the ball spun free, and Rivaldo Coetzee side-footed the ball into an unattended net, and the halftime whistle followed moments later.

Earlier in the match, De Rueck was gifted a free header after he left unmarked in the striking zone. He rose well to head a Lakay free-kick, but the effort went wastefully wide.

Baroka had two gilt-edged scoring chances in the first half. First, Mbulu had a strike, but his effort ricocheted off a teammate and landed in front of another teammate Sekela Sithole. The latter pulled the trigger, but it was deflected by Sundowns defence and goalkeeper Denis Onyango was forced to make a desperate save as the ball spun goalwards.

Mbulu had a chance after he outsprinted the Sundowns defence to chase down an innocuous kick upfield. With Onyango to beat his parting shot flew high over the crossbar.

Sundowns started the second half very much the way they did in the first half when their play lacked a sense of urgency and exactness. At times they were playing with gay abandon as they enjoyed 77% possession domination,

After Sundowns spurned several scoring chances early in the second half, Baroka shocked the champions with an equaliser by Mbulu in the 77th minute.

Baroka would have felt a measure of achievement if they could hold out for a stalemate, but Sundowns’ class was always in evidence and Themba Zwane came to their rescue with the matchwinner in the 83rd minute.

@Herman_Gibbs

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