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Sundowns start year with tight win over Orlando Pirates

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi

Mamelodi Sundowns got the new year off to the perfect start after a narrow 1-0 win over title rivals Orlando Pirates.

Sundowns came into the encounter looking to remain at the top of the table while sending also sending a message to their title rivals. The Brazilians though were without the services of the injured Themba Zane and Gaston Sirino.

Pirates on the other hand were searching for a title statement of their own but were without Richard Ofori as Wayne Sandilands deputized for the Ghanaian.

A slow start to the game saw other side feel each other out in what looked like a tactical chess match at times.

Pirates cheated the first opening of the game as Vincent Pule unleashed a long-range strike which forced Denis Onyango into a fine save.

Pule then had a double chance moments later but after having his first effort blocked, his second sailed wide.

Downs began to grow into the game and with 22 minutes gone as Lebogang Maboe tried to chip Wayne Sandilands from range, the Pirates stopper though positioned himself well as to watch the ball fly just over the bar.

11 minutes later and the Sea Robbers had the best chance of the encounter as Deon Hotto went through down the left flank but his cross was well cleared by Brian Onyango to snuff out any danger.

It was the defending champions though who managed to fire themselves ahead just before the break. The goal came against the run of play as Down defender Onyango again as he rose highest at the back post to meet a Rivaldo Coetzee free-kick and fire his side in the lead.

1-0 to the Brazilians at the break with the game well in the balance.

The Sea Robbers came out with even more intent at the start of the second half as they looked to up the intensity and get themselves back on level terms.

Despite the intention showed by Pirates it was the defending champions who created the next opening as Khuliso Mudau got to the byline and floated the ball up to the back post but Ntsikelelo Nyauza did brilliantly to make the clearance pretty much off the goalline.

The game then began to stretch which resulted in chances at both ends, the best of those chances went the way of the buccaneers as Gabadinho Mhango was brought down just outside the box with 70 minutes player, the forward dusted himself off before unleashing a quality free kick but yet again Onyango was equal to the task as he produced another fantastic save.

The Brazilians though began to dominate proceedings heading into the final 10 minutes and should have been two up when Peter Shaquille slipped in Kermit Erasmus, it the former Pirates man could only manage to strike the outside of the right post.

The defending champions continued to apply pressure but the second goal did not come, tat however, would of bothered Downs who walked away with a big three points against their title rivals.