Johannesburg (AFP) – FIFA Club World Cup flops Mamelodi Sundowns got back on the winning trail Thursday when they edged Baroka 1-0 away in the final South African Premiership match this year.
After surprisingly winning the CAF Champions League in October, the Pretoria club came off second best against two Asian opponents in the world tournament.
Sundowns lost 2-0 to Kashima Antlers from host nation Japan, then 4-1 to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea and finished a disappointing sixth in the seven-club field.
Seven days after departing the Club World Cup, the African champions needed 84 minutes to overcome bottom club Baroka and climb three places to seventh with games in hand.
Liberian Anthony Laffor, who started the match at rain-drenched Peter Mokaba Stadium on the bench, crossed for captain Hlompho Kekana to score with a powerful close-range header.
“Baroka may be bottom of the table but they have held Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and are a difficult club to break down,” Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane told reporters.
“I was not happy with our first half showing, we were rushing things and seemed desperate to score when we should have displayed patience.
“The team was much better in the second half, finding space behind defenders, and I knew it was only a matter of time before a goal came.
“We are looking forward to a break now after 17 months of continuous football,” said Mosimane, referring to the next round of league fixtures only starting on February 7.
Victory gave Premiership title-holders Sundowns 19 points from nine matches, six less than leaders SuperSport United with five matches in hand.
SuperSport and Sundowns share the Lucas ‘Masterpieces’ Moripe Stadium in a western Pretoria township and they could well end up slugging it out for the South African title next year.
Both will also compete in Africa next year with Sundowns defending the Champions League crown and SuperSport returning to the second-tier Confederation Cup after a two-year absence.
Sundowns face KCCA of Uganda or Primeiro Agosto of Angola having received a preliminary round bye while SuperSport meet Saint-Michel Elgeco Plus of Madagascar for a last-32 place.