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Sundowns snap dry run of league draws

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Thapelo Morena scored the only goal of the game as Mamelodi Sundowns beat Richards Bay at Loftus on Tuesday.

Thapelo Morena celebrates with teammates after scoring against Richards Bay at Loftus on Tuesday.
Thapelo Morena celebrates with teammates after scoring against Richards Bay at Loftus on Tuesday. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Cape Town — Mamelodi Sundowns returned to winning ways in the domestic arena, following their slender 1-0 win over a gallant Richards Bay FC in a Premiership clash at Loftus on Tuesday.

The victory was long overdue for Sundowns, who failed to win their last three league matches and were forced to settle for stalemates after winning the title for the sixth successive time a few weeks ago.

The result is a blow for Richards Bay’s top-eight aspirations, and they will have to do better in their remaining matches if they continue to harbour hopes of a top-eight finish. Richards Bay remain in 10th place on the standings.

The outcome also meant that Sundowns completed a league double over the KwaZulu-Natal side who suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first encounter earlier this season.

Richards Bay started well enough to cause some anxious moments for Sundowns’ defence. On the right flank, Sanele Barns made several final-third entries and fired two shots on goal from acute angles, but his efforts were fractionally wide.

Midway through the first half Sundowns started imposing themselves on the match and soon their pressure took its toll when sloppy defending saw Richards Bay trailing after a well-taken goal by Thapelo Morena, who struck the underside of the crossbar and the ball bounced into the goals.

The goal emerged after a speculative shot by Sundowns midfielder Sphelele Mkhulise into the Richards Bay penalty area. After the shot was blocked it ricocheted off the face of defender Sibusiso Mthethwa and it fell favourably for defender Morena, who had stalked unmarked into the firing zone.

Soon afterwards Sundowns lost one of their star players Cassius Mailula, who suffered a hamstring niggle. He was replaced by Thabiso Kutumela.

Richards Bay did not threaten Sundowns’ lead in the remaining first-half play and the scoreline remained unchanged by the time referee Olani Kwinda blew for halftime.

Early in the second half, Sundowns made four changes after withdrawing key players with an eye on keeping them fresh for Saturday’s Caf Champions League match at Loftus.

On three occasions, Richards Bay threatened in early second-half play. They were unfortunate not to score because the crossbar thwarted one excellent effort after goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was well beaten.

Later in the match, Williams made two excellent saves when his supporting defence was unable to keep Richards Bay’s strikers in check.

On Saturday, Sundowns will host Algeria’s CR Belouizdad in a Champions League quarter-final second leg at Loftus.

Richards Bay have a break until next Wednesday, when they host relegation-doomed Chippa United at the King Zwelithini.

@Herman_Gibbs

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