Mamelodi Sundowns opened up a 10-point lead at the top of the DStv Premiership standings after their 3-2 victory over Royal AM at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The Brazilians made four changes to their side that drew with Stellenbosch FC as Neo Maema, Rushine De Reuck, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Thapelo Morena were recalled to the starting lineup, while Ndumiso Mabena was named up front for Royal AM in place of Victor Letsoalo.
Sundowns got off to the perfect start and broke the deadlock as early as the sixth minute when Thabiso Kutumela opened the scoring with a superb volley into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Neo Maema came close to doubling Sundowns’ lead in the 21st minute after he unleashed a powerful shot, forcing Royal goalkeeper Hugo Nyame into making a good save to deny the attacking midfielder.
Kennedy Mweene came to his side’s rescue four minutes later when he made an incredible save from point-blank range to deny Tebogo Potsane in a one-on-one.
Potsane thought he had levelled matters in the 31st minute but the Royal attacker was adjudged to have been offside in the buildup to the goal.
The experience of Mweene was mined again on the stroke of half time when he made a great save to keep out Menzi Masuku’s strike at the near post, as Sundowns went into the break one goal ahead.
Sundowns opted to bring on fresh legs at the restart as Mothobi Mvala replaced Mosa Lebusa.
Peter Shalulile had a golden opportunity to double Sundowns’ lead in the 52nd minute, but the in-form striker fired his effort inches wide of the far post with the goalkeeper beaten.
The home side then made a double substitution six minutes later as Lyle Lakay and Sibusiso Vilakazi were replaced by Sphelele Mkhulise and Aubrey Modiba.
Royal made a change of their own just after the hour mark as top-goalscorer Victor Letsoalo came on to replace Kabelo Mahlasel before Sundowns substituted Gaston Sirino for goalscorer Kutumela.
Sundowns eventually doubled their lead in the 65th minute after Shalulile found the back out the net with a simple tap-in after latching on to a pin-point cross from Morena.
The Brazilians grabbed their third goal after the 72nd minute as Shalulile rounded the keeper to slot the ball into an empty net after a blistering counter-attack from Sundowns.
Shalulile should have completed his hat-trick two minutes later when he unleashed a shot from distance, but his strike crashed off the crossbar.
Royal managed to pull a goal back in the 80th minute when Letsoalo found the back of the net with a first-time finish after receiving a cross from Potsane to make it 3-1.
Sirino came close grabbing his second goal in the competition four minutes later but the Uruguayan blazed his effort wide of the target.
The visitors were then awarded a penalty in the 89th minute for a handball inside the box. Letsoalo stepped up and made no mistake in calmly converting the spot kick.
Royal gave Sundowns a scare deep into stoppage time, but Mweene made a fantastic save to hand the Brazilians all three points at home.
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