Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP |
Liberian Anthony Laffor scored a hat-trick to give Mamelodi Sundowns a 3-0 win at Pretoria University Wednesday and a record-extending seventh South African Premiership title.
The tall, slim 31-year-old midfielder scored after three, 20 and 59 minutes at Tuks Stadium to give the Pretoria club an unassailable eight-point lead over Wits with two rounds remaining.
Sundowns pocketed a 10 million rand ($670,000, 590,000 euros) first prize in the richest African national football championship.
They and runners-up Wits will represent South Africa in the CAF Champions League, a competition that has brought only heartache for Sundowns since finishing as 2001 runners-up.
Uganda Cranes goalkeeper Denis Onyango has been key between the posts for the champions.
Given a rare start during a season in which he has been hampered by injuries, Laffor took full advantage to move second-bottom Pretoria closer to relegation.
The Liberian converted a Mzikayise Mashaba cross to give Sundowns the perfect start and tapped in a cross from Zimbabwean Khama Billiat at the far post for his second.
Any doubts about the outcome were dispelled just before the hour as Billiat dispossessed an opponent and fed Laffor, who fired across goalkeeper Tristyn Coetsee into the far corner.
From then to the final whistle Sundowns stroked the ball nonchalantly among themselves, content to retain possession and deprive the hosts of scoring chances.
A dismal evening for Pretoria was summed up in stoppage time when substitute Thabiso Nkoana blazed over with the goal in his sights.
“I wish to thank my team-mates,” said Laffor after receiving the official man of the match award.
“It is a great feeling to be champions after a long season in which Sundowns fought on many domestic fronts and in Africa.
“We stayed focused and believed in ourselves — that was a key factor in our championship success,” said the Monrovia-born footballer.
Coach Pitso Mosimane said that while the focus would be on his multi-national squad of stars, he wanted to praise his analysts and physical trainer too.
“We stayed up to two, three, four o’clock in the morning analysing clubs and individuals we were due to meet.
“Critics said we would not last the pace, playing two matches virtually every week. Did you see any weary Sundowns footballers when the final whistle blew? I certainly did not.”
Outgoing champions Kaizer Chiefs drew 0-0 with Bloemfontein Celtic in a drab Soweto clash that delivered few scoring opportunities.
Jomo Cosmos improved their chances of dodging the drop by scoring four minutes into stoppage time through a Tebogo Makobela header to snatch a 2-2 draw at Ajax Cape Town.
Cosmos have 25 points, four more than Pretoria and five above Maritzburg United. The club coming last are automatically relegated and the second-last team go into play-offs.
The trophy will be handed over to the Brazilians at the Lucas Moripe stadium on Saturday, 21 May, following their clash against Platinum Stars.
University of Pretoria (0) 0
Mamelodi Sundowns (2) 3 (Laffor 3′ 20′ 59′)
University of Pretoria: AmaTuks: Coetsee; Sibande, Mthethwa, Mwedihanga, Jaure – K.Zwane (Mnyamane 68′), Ketjijere, Nyathi (Nyondo 54′), Ntombayithethi – Kebede (Nkoana 56′), Bacela
Mamelodi Sundowns: Onyango, Langerman, Arendse, Nthethe, Mphahlele – Mabunda, Kekana (Modise 80′) – Mashaba (S.Zwane 66′), Dolly Billiat – Laffor (Ngele 83′)
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