Themba Zwane scored the only goal of the game as Mamelodi Sundowns kicked off their MTN8 campaign with a narrow win over Moroka Swallows.
So much for Themba Zwane being long in the tooth and needing to be kept in cotton wool this season.
The Mamelodi Sundowns talisman showed against Moroka Swallows at the Lucas Moripe Stadium that he will still be a key player for the Brazilians as they look to continue their dominance of the local league.
Mshishi did not only score the winner in this MTN8 clash, but played the full 90 minutes and still looked full of running late in the match as he looked to help make this victory much more convincing against at Birds outfit reduced to 10 men very early in the match.
The skipper’s goal was a thing of beauty, a goal that once again confirmed that in Brazilian Lucas Ribeiro, the DStv Premiership kings have signed a little magician who is sure to make them shine even brighter than they have been in previous seasons.
Job done! ✅ On to the next round! 👆
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) August 12, 2023
Having failed to score in the first half, Sundowns did not take long to break the Swallows resistance after the break. Four minutes after the restart they stole possession in their own half and launched a quick attack which saw Rebeiro in possession and riding a tackle that sent him looking like he would fall.
Many a players would have went to ground and won a free kick. But the Brazilian stayed on his feet and once he regained his full equilibrium delivered a pass only top class players would have dished out.
Zwane was ahead of him to his left, the skipper attended to by a Swallows defender. But Riberio passed the ball to the right and Zwane ran across to latch on to it before slotting home past Akpeyi for what turned out to be the game’s only match.
Indications early on in the game though were that Sundowns would enjoy the equivalent of a Saturday stroll in the park after Swallows had the worst start when their captain Andile Jali received a red card on six minutes after his dangerous, studs up tackle on the instep and ankle of Teboho Mokoena.
A Brazilians star for many years, Jali moved over to the Birds’ aviary shortly after coach Steve Komphela had taken the reins at Swallows having also been with Sundowns for a good number of seasons.
A renowned midfielder enforcer, the erstwhile Orlando Pirates prodigy who wears the Swallows captain’s armband no doubt was keen to dictate matters against his former teammates. And what better way to do that than to show the opposition midfield kingpin you mean business with a solid tackle.
But Jali was a little overzealous in his eagerness to boss the midfield as he went in too hard, over the top and a little late against Mokena, leaving referee Cedrick Muchali with no option but to flash the dreaded red card.
A man down so early in the match against the favourites resulted in a walk in the park for the Brazilians, but Komphela’s men more than held their won in the initial stanza, limiting Sundowns from creating clear scoring opportunities.
They created some half chances though, Neo Maema delivering a dangerous grass-cutting ball into the box on 25 minutes only for Sibiya to coolly clear it away before it reached a player in yellow and royal blue.
Four minutes later debutant Aubaas shot wide after the Swallows defence gave him ample time and space to decide what to do with the ball on the edge of the danger box.
There was another opportunity when Sundowns caught Swallows on the break and Thapelo Maseko rounded the advancing Akpeyi but saw his cross cleared away.
Deep into first half injury time the Birds’ keeper pulled off a brilliant safe, diving low to his right to parry out a Mokoena sizzler from the edge of the box.
There was very little he could do though four minutes after half time to stop the ‘veteran’ Zwane scoring for Sundowns though.