Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP |
Mamelodi Sundowns thrashed Free State Stars 4-1 in the South African Premiership on Saturday, two days before flying to Japan for a maiden FIFA Club World Cup appearance.
Percy Tau added to his rapidly growing reputation with two second-half goals as the Pretoria club transformed a 1-1 half-time scoreline into a decisive home victory.
Zimbabwean Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly, two of the five 2016 Africa-based African Footballer of the Year finalists, were the other scorers for the CAF Champions League title-holders.
Thokozani Sekotlong was on target at Loftus Versfeld stadium for second-from-bottom Free State, who have won just once in 12 league outings this season.
Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango’s Sundowns remain eighth, eight points behind leaders Cape Town City, but they have four matches in hand owing to postponements caused by African commitments.
The wide winning margin was a relief for coach Pitso Mosimane, who had expressed pre-match concern that his players were being distracted by the Club World Cup.
“Our focus today was on beating Free State Stars and that delighted me,” said the first South African coach to win the CAF Champions League.
“Tau was unbelievable, he is growing from strength to strength. My main worry about him was a lack of goals and now he has scored three in three matches.”
Sundowns are only the second sub-Saharan African club after TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo to compete in the Club World Cup.
They debut at the quarter-final stage next Sunday against Kashima Antlers of Japan or Auckland City of New Zealand in Osaka.
Kaizer Chiefs’ poor run continued as they conceded two goals within a minute en route to a 3-1 away defeat by Chippa United in Port Elizabeth.
Siphiwe Tshabalala punished a careless Chippa back pass to give Chiefs a 15th-minute lead they retained entering the final quarter at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
But headed goals from Lerato Manzini and Tshwarelo Bereng on 71 and 72 minutes turned the tide and a late goal sealed the fate of the four-time Premiership champions.
“We have to take it on the chin and move on,” was the defiant message from Chiefs coach Steve Komphela who dodged plastic bottles flung by disgruntled supporters after the match.
Zimbabwean Tendai Ndoro scored after 35 seconds and converted a second-half penalty for Orlando Pirates in Soweto, but bottom club Highlands Park levelled twice to force a 2-2 draw.
Ndoro has averaged a goal a game in 11 league appearances for the Buccaneers this season and tops the Premiership scorers’ chart.
Ajax Cape Town continued a revival under Dutch coach Stanley Menzo by snatching a late 1-0 home win over Golden Arrows thanks to a penalty that Nathan Paulse converted.