Themba Zwane scored an impressive first half hat-trick to guide Mamelodi Sundowns to victory in their DStv Premiership game against AmaZulu on Sunday.
THERE’S Mamelodi Sundowns. And then, there’s Themba Zwane. But that the former are on the summit of the DStv Premiership standings after the fourth round of matches in their bid to defend their crown is largely due to the latter.
Three wins in four opening matches this season is rarely a Sundowns record. The Brazilians are known to be slow starters in their domestic campaign, having had to juggle local and continental football in the last seven years.
But having had to start this term with their focus solely on the domestic season, with their Caf Champions League campaign set to commence later next month, the Brazilians found themselves where they should be – top of the Premiership standings.
This is thanks to three wins and one draw in four matches. That they conceded three goals in their fourth match against AmaZulu at home at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday in the league has been their only blemish this season.
But that won’t matter much. After all, Zwane reminded the fraternity, and his peers in the division, why his coronation as last season’s Footballer of The Season was no fluke. This was consolidated by his hat-trick in just 10 minutes during the first half.
Usuthu, unceremoniously, opened the scoring. During a casual interchange with Motjeka Madisha, captain on the day Ricardo Nascimento saw his back pass intercepted by Lehlohonolo Majoro who slotted past Kennedy Mweene.
Sundowns conceded for the first time in the league this season. But soon thereafter, Zwane took matters into his hands. The Sundowns’ talisman scored his first goal with a clinical low hard strike from close range after a through ball from Peter Shalulile.
Zwane, though, would return with something special. After scramble to clear their lines at the back, Zwane intercepted the loose ball, rolled it to his weak left football before curling a sumptuous finish past Siyabonga Mbatha to give the Brazilians the lead.
Zwane, though, was not done. The 31-year-old scored his third goal a minute before the half-hour mark, having scored his first in the 19th minute. This came after a selfless assist from Kermit Erasmus as Zwane side-footed the ball past Mbatha.
But the Tembisa-born footballer wasn’t only contributing in attack. Defensively, he was also present, getting a high-five from his teammates after clearing the ball near his half’s corner-flag after winning possession from Augustine Mulenga.
While Zwane, amid his constructive play in Usuthu’s final third, was to get a yellow card in the second half for changing his shirt without referee Cedric Muvhali’s permission, Nascimento was having a bad day at the office, conceding a penalty for his team.
Luvuyo Memela stepped up to take the responsibility and reduced the deficit to one goal for Usuthu. But Shalulile would soon score his second goal in Sundowns’ colours, heading home empty after Mbatha missed the ball in no man’s land.
Soon thereafter, Usuthu were back to the game, Sandile Khumalo heading his team’s third from a Mulenga corner-kick after Mweene let the ball slip through his hands and leg. But Zwane, who’s scored four league goals this season, ensured that all three points remained in Tshwane.
This was his fifth goal in a week, having scored a brace when Bafana Bafana defeated Sao Tome and Principe during their 4-2 win in the second leg of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, last Monday, as they kept their hopes of qualifying for the finals in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila hosted neighbours Baroka FC to a 1-0 win at Thohoyandou Stadium in Venda, while Cape Town City trounced Bloemfontein Celtic 4-2 at the Cape Town Stadium in their match on Sunday.