Mamelodi Sundowns survive red card, disputed goal to go top

Denis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns FC takes on the defence of Yannick Zakri, Mxolisi Kunene and Evans Rusike of Maritzburg United.

Denis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns FC takes on the defence of Yannick Zakri, Mxolisi Kunene and Evans Rusike of Maritzburg United.

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JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns survived having a player red-carded and conceding a disputed goal to defeat Maritzburg United 2-1 and take a three-point lead in the South African Premiership.   

The Pretoria-based defending champions were quick out of the blocks and Argentine Emiliano Tade and Lebohang Maboe scored to put them two goals ahead within 21 minutes.

But when Sundowns' Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Sirino was sent off on 61 minutes after a second yellow card, Maritzburg sensed all was not lost.  

The bottom club laid siege to the Sundowns goalmouth, forcing man-of-the-match Ugandan Denis Onyango to make a series of superb saves.

Onyango exchanged angry words with the referee after Maritzburg halved the deficit seven minutes from time, claiming he was fouled as he rose for a cross.

But the match official waved play on and Fortune Makaringe forced the ball over the goalline from point-blank range to create a tense finish in eastern city Pietermaritzburg.

Sundowns survived to overtake Orlando Pirates, who had led on goal difference, in the richest African league with a 10 million rand ($700,000/620,000 euro) first prize. 

Sundowns have 43 points, Pirates 40, Cape Town City 39 and 2017 champions Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United 38 each with seven rounds remaining.

"We should have wrapped up the points with about 15 minutes to go when Themba Zwane was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and shot wide," said Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.

"A goal then would have taken us three clear and slowed my heartbeat in the closing stages when Maritzburg applied a lot of pressure."

Maritzburg coach Eric Tinkler said: "It was a great match to watch in the stands or on TV, but I would rather snatch an ugly victory and collect three points.   

"The difference between the teams was the clinical finishing of Sundowns -- they took their chances and we did not take ours."

Maritzburg, who finished fourth last season and were the South African FA Cup runners-up, lie three points below second-from-bottom Chippa United and have played one match more.

Source
AFP