Themba Zwane shows his class with hat-trick as Downs edge AmaZulu
SA’s best footballer rescues the points for champions Mamelodi Sundowns
Themba Zwane showed why he is SA’s best footballer when he scored a quick hat-trick against AmaZulu to send the champions back to the summit of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) standings at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday.
The reigning footballer of the season and players’ player of the season scored one of the fastest hat-tricks in the domestic top-flight when he beat AmaZulu goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha three times inside 11 minutes to spearhead Sundowns to a 4-3 win in a fast-paced thriller.
Sundowns had to fight for all the points and actually had to claw their way from behind after they were stunned by an early strike from Lehlohonolo Majoro in the 15th minute. That early strike from the visitors set the tone for what was to be an exciting match in the nation’s capital.
The opportunistic Majoro capitalised on a defensive error from captain Ricardo Nascimento and stole the ball from the careless Brazilian player, and then beat Sundowns goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene with a well-taken strike to score the opening goal of the game.
AmaZulu players were guilty of the same and were seemingly still in a euphoric mood when the Zwane show suddenly began, with the classy midfielder shifting into second gear. The visitors failed to pick up the lurking midfielder at the edge of the area and after he received a beautiful pass from Peter Shalulile, unleashed a venomous strike that sneaked past Mbatha at the near post to bring the home side on level terms in the 19th minute.
But Zwane was not done and worked himself into space with silky touches between a bevy of defenders before firing a breathtaking curling shot with his left foot that beat Mbatha a minute later.
Zwane completed his hat-trick on the half-hour when he beat Mbatha with a low shot after he was unselfishly set up by Kermit Erasmus, who himself could have scored.
The two sides continued to ask questions of each other and it was perhaps something of a surprise that more goals were not scored in the first half.
The second period began at a similarly frantic pace and AmaZulu won a penalty two minutes into the restart after Nascimento handled the ball in the area. The seemingly generous Nascimento was AmaZulu’s biggest benefactor on the afternoon and a grateful Luvuyo Memela beat Mweene with a low shot on the rebound after the Sundowns goalkeeper had managed to save the initial shot.
AmaZulu were suddenly back in the match but their march was stopped in its tracks when Shalulile scored with a beautiful header after a Lyle Lakay corner in the 56th minute. But AmaZulu were never completely out of this game and continued to probe, never allowing themselves to be frustrated by the 4-2 scoreline they were chasing.
They were duly rewarded when Sandile Khumalo rose above everyone to head past a bewildered Mweene in the 59th minute, bringing the visitors within a goal of an equaliser.
Khumalo’s late strike ensured a nervous finish for Sundowns and the champions defended desperately, determined to emerge from Loftus with all the points. It was a leaky display at the back that will not have pleased the Sundowns coaching staff.
The win ensured that Swallows FC’s stay at the top of the top-flight standings lasted just 24 hours after they drew 0-0 with TS Galaxy on Saturday.
In other matches on Sunday, Cape Town City climbed to fifth spot in the PSL standings after defeating Bloemfontein Celtic 4-2 and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila clinched their first victory in the Premiership after a 1-0 win over Limpopo rivals Baroka.
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