Mamelodi Sundowns walked away with all three valuable points against a spirited Black Leopards side, who put up a brave fight in an exciting Absa Premiership encounter at the Thohoyandou Stadium in Limpopo on Wednesday evening.
In some of the few changes to the lineup, forced by a growing injury list, Andile Jali started alongside Hlompho Kekana in the middle of the park, while Ali Meza returned to the starting eleven. Motjeka Madisha who was eventually voted man of the match for his solid performance also started alongside Bafana Bafana bound Mosa Lebusa in central defence.
The Brazilians won the encounter 2-1 and moved up to third place on the log thanks to the result, which was secured by an opening strike from Themba Zwane and an own goal from Chris Katjiukua.
The league champions are five points adrift of log leaders Kaizer Chiefs, but have two games in hand. Lidoda Duvha, meanwhile. Sundowns found their rhythm from early on and by the seventh minute Leopards needed goalkeeper Jonas Mendes to make an excellent save to keep out a goal-bound effort from Themba Zwane.
The Guinea-Bissau shot-stopper made another fine save to deny Hlompho Kekana from close range a few minutes later, but there was only so much he could do to keep the Sundowns rampant attack at bay.
On the 25th minutes ‘Downs deservedly went into the lead. Jose Ali Meza did some excellent work to shake off a marker down the right flank before playing in a cross from the by line.
Zwane arrived late into the six-yard area and poked the ball home ahead of a helpless Mendes for 1-0.
The Brazilians continued to boss the game and went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, thanks to an own goal from Chris Katjiukua in the 44th minute, after some much needed pressure from Thapelo Morena.
The defender stretched out to try and intercept a right-flank cross from Gaston Sirino, but only succeeded in directing the ball beyond his goalkeeper.
Leopards pulled one back after Mwape Musonda provided a sweet finish from the edge of the box which gave Denis Onyango no chance.
The goal sparked Lidoda Duvha into life and they began to create scoring chances, including another for Musonda in the 65th minute in which he cracked an acrobatic volley just wide of the target.
Sundowns regained a sense of control in the game and should have restored a two-goal lead in the 76th minute, when substitute Lebohang Maboe was presented with a fine scoring chance, but the striker sent a low shot wide of the mark.
The Tshwane side was able to see out the remainder of the game without too much pressure on their defence, securing an important three-point haul just before the international break.
Black Leopards (0) 1 (Musonda 59’)
Mamelodi Sundowns (2) 2 (Zwane 25’, Katjiukua 44’ og)
LINEUP: Denis Onyango, Anele Ngcongca, Motjeka Madisha, Mosa Lebusa, Lyle Lakay, Thapelo Morena, Andile Jali, Hlompho Kekana, Themba Zwane (Tebogo Langerman 81’), Gaston Sirino (Sammy Seabi 87’), Ali Meza (Lebohang Maboe 72’)