Hlompho Kekana’s 83rd minute goal propelled Mamelodi Sundowns to a deserved 1-0 win against SuperSport United and underlined their dominance over their Pretoria rivals.
Of the four Tshwane Derbies this season, Sundowns have won three but in the context of their now revitalised title defence, this could be their most important win yet.
After their dry spell, this was their third successive league win and moved to 44 points in the process and now trail leaders Cape Town City by two points with as many games in hand.
Their yellow faithful that packs out the East stand were fully aware of the importance of the victory and celebrated as such.
There was none of the spunk and the finesse that punctuated their last meeting but again, Sundowns were asked to grind out a win.
Like they did against Free State Stars in Orkney on Sunday, they responded in the affirmative and dented SuperSport’s league chances in the process.
Having not won a league game since their 1-0 win against Highlands Park on February 25, it was imperative of SuperSport to collect maximum points.
They haven’t won in five matches and with the teams above them having breached 40 points, Stuart Baxter may look back at this period as the one where his team’s title challenge fizzled out.
It was always going to be difficult for the sides to reproduce their pyrotechnics but this was expected.
Sundowns were going to be hard-pressed to put another five past Baxter’s side but through the course of the game, displayed why they were the better side.
They were more comfortable in possession, made the better attacking forays and made sure their rock solid defence wasn’t punctured.
Unlike last week’s bloodletting where they were three down inside 26 minutes, SuperSport were better organised defensive to cope with Sundowns’ explosive pace.
Even then, they should have been a goal down within the first minute when Khama Billiat inexplicably shot wide with the goalmouth beckoning.
Themba Zwane should have scored four minutes later when a long ball sprung SuperSport’s offside trap but the midfielder dallied with the SuperSport defence bearing down on him.
With Ronwen Williams back in goal, SuperSport were far more assured and trusting of their last line of defence.
Reyaad Pieterse was not to blame for the Loftus Versfeld hammering but there was always a feeling he could have and should have done better with some of the goals.
He was one of three changes from the side that was embarrassed on Easter Thursday.
The back four that Sundowns surgically dissected was kept but through keeping numbers behind the ball, they were able to apply the tourniquet that was missing in the earlier fixture.
With Teboho Mokoena operating on the right-hand side, they had pace of their own but their best chance came from the unlikely figure of Clayton Daniels.
He found himself with space and time to shoot at Denis Onyango but couldn’t beat the Ugandan international in the 41st minute.
While the second half was a tactical chess match that would have delighted midfield purists, the flood of goals was not forthcoming.
Uncharacteristically, Sundowns were being blunted by SuperSport’s massed defence and only Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s 55th minute shot could have been regarded as a definite goal scoring opportunity.
Kekana was a constant thorn throughout the game and when he was on the end of Teko Modise’s freekick, it was due reward for his diligence.
After all, he epitomised Sundowns’ never say die attitude.