Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG
Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/STEVE HAAG

Mamelodi Sundowns increased their lead at the top of the Premier Soccer League standings to four points with a 2-0 win over struggling Maritzburg United at Loftus on Wednesday.

This was the second win in succession for the Brazilians after their 3-0 success over Orlando Pirates last weekend‚ and they have completely recovered from the mini slump that saw them go three outings without a victory.

Before they beat Pirates on Sunday‚ Sundowns played to goalless draws against fellow title chasers AmaZulu and Golden Arrows. They also suffered their first and only defeat of the season at the hands of Kaizer Chiefs.

With this victory secured through goals by Ricardo Nascimento and Gift Motupa‚ Sundowns have regained their advantage over AmaZulu who have played one more game as they enter the final stretch of the season.

For Maritzburg and coach Ernst Middendorp‚ they have a lot of work to do to get out of the relegation zone in their remaining five matches as they sit at fourth from the bottom.

Sundowns return to action on Sunday when they visit improved TS Galaxy‚ while Maritzburg have time to sort out their deficiencies as their next outing is only on Wednesday against Arrows at home.

There was nothing much to write about during the opening exchanges and the notable moment came after eight minutes when influential Sundowns midfielder Themba Zwane was stretched off the field with what looked like a hamstring injury.

A few minutes after Zwane was replaced by Promise Mkhuma‚ Sundowns attacker Peter Shalulile was denied by the upright and the crossbar in quick succession as Sundowns went all out for the opening goal.

In one of the most notable attacks of the opening half‚ Maritzburg striker Thabiso Kutumela delivered a telling cross into the box for Bongokuhle Hlongwane‚ but his header went wide after he outjumped Mosa Lebusa.

Sundowns took the lead on 38 minutes when Nascimento sent Maritzburg goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt the wrong way from the penalty spot. This was after Clayton Daniels was judged to have hacked Motupa down in the box by referee Abongile Tom.

Despite being a goal down‚ Maritzburg continued to take the game to Sundowns and Hlongwane later benefited from a misplaced pass by Aubrey Modiba‚ but his left-footed shot could not find the target.

Just after the hour mark‚ Maritzburg squandered a good opportunity to draw level when attacker Travis Graham shot tamely at Sundowns keeper Denis Onyango after he was found unmarked by a cross from Kutumela.

Moments later the Sundowns technical team were forced into a change that saw defensive midfielder Mothobi Mvala coming on for Sphelele Mkhulise‚ who was stretched off with discomfort.

Sundowns secured the vital three points 20 minutes from time when Motupa hammered a low shot past Engelhardt for his first goal for the Brazilians and the season.

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