23.08.2023 21:38 h

Historic win gives Mamelodi Sundowns eight-point lead

South Americans Lucas Ribeiro and Junior Mendieta combined for the goal that gave Mamelodi Sundowns a historic 1-0 South African Premiership victory at Richards Bay on Wednesday.

Seeking a record-extending seventh straight title, Sundowns won five league matches in a row from the start of the season for the first time by edging second-last Bay in Durban.

The five victories have given Sundowns an eight-point lead early in the season as they seek to confirm their dominance of the richest African national championship.

Argentine Mendieta, a close-season signing from top-flight rivals Stellenbosch, initiated the move that led to the 11th-minute winner with a backheel to Brazilian Ribeiro.

Ribeiro, who joined the Pretoria club from Belgian outfit SK Beverenr, then pushed the ball forward for Mendieta to fire past Uganda goalkeeper Salim Magoola.

Sundowns are unbeaten in 29 Premiership matches, including last season, since losing to neighbours SuperSport United on September 2, 2022.

"The goal was born on the training field. It emphasised the great understanding among the players," said Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena.

"It was a victory that showed the great character of the team. Every club we face plays exceptionally well. Every side wants to beat Sundowns.

"Richards Bay may be at the wrong end of the table, but they proved worthy opponents. They were aggressive and energetic."

Bay coach and former Zimbabwe captain Kaitano Tembo said: "A lack of sharpness in the final third cost us dearly. We need to strengthen our attack.

"We also had problems dealing with the excellent movement of Sundowns, and they got behind our defence too often for comfort."

Sundowns' continuous success has not come without criticism, with some media pointing to the wealth of club owner and Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe.

Critics claim the 61-year-old billionaire, who pays the highest salaries in the Premiership, gives Sundowns an unfair advantage.

Sundowns have increasingly looked to South America for talent, with Ribeiro, Mendieta and Chilean Marcelo Allende starting in Durban, along with Moroccan Abdelmounaim Boutouil.

Meanwhile, mid-table Sekhukhune United continued a run of home losses and away wins with a 1-0 victory at Cape Town City courtesy of a sixth-minute goal from Nigerian Chibuike Ohizu.

City began with two league wins under coach and former South Africa star Eric Tinkler, but have lost twice since.