Mamelodi Sundowns got their DStv Premiership title defence off to a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sekhukhune United at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Friday night.
Peter Shaulile and debutant Lucas Ribeiro Costa were on the scoresheet against an erratic Babina Noko side. Man of the match Jamie Webber’s smartly taken free-kick in the second half made for a nervous end to the game for the defending champions.
“Can we get better? For sure, it’s going to be a long season.”
Both teams were reduced to 10-man with Vusumzi Mncube sent off for a dangerous tackle while Rivaldo Coetzee was also shown a straight red late in the second half.
Sekhukhune were their own worst enemies, giving away an early penalty and being reduced to 10 players to hand The Brazilians the initiative after a positive start to the game.
A Ronwen Williams misplaced pass while trying to play out from the back fell to Elias Mokwana in the third minute. However, he failed to capitalise on the mistake as Williams atoned for the error by parrying the ball away for a corner.
The defending champions got a foothold in the game after Edwin Gyimah handled the ball while trying to shield it from Themba Zwane.
Last season’s joint top-scorer Shalulile stepped up and sent Badra Sangaré the wrong way to give his team the lead.
It went from bad to worse for Babina Noko as Mncube was sent for an early shower by referee Sikhumbuzo Gasa following a dangerous two-footed tackle on Teboho Mokoena.
It was one-way traffic from then on as Rulani Mokwena’s charges took control of the game and had their opponents pinned in their own half.
Audrey Modiba, Ribeiro Costa and Marcelo Allende had good opportunities to extend the lead but it was not to be as the game went into the break 1-0 in favour of the defending champions.
Mokwena brought on Thapelo Maseko for Aubrey Modiba at the start of the second half and the former SuperSport United winger made an immediate impact with an assist as Ribeiro Costa doubled Sundowns’ lead 12 minutes after the interval. He was slipped in by the substitute who outpaced Daniel Cardozo to set up Costa who tapped into an empty net with the keeper off his line.
Just when Sundowns were threatening to take the game away from their hosts, Webber, who was also making his debut for Sekhukhune after his move from SuperSport United, pulled one back four minutes later for the Limpopo side
But it was not enough as Downs grabbed all three points. Coetzee was also shown a red card for retaliation with five minutes of regulation time left to play.