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Sundowns win, Pirates draw to stretch long unbeaten runs

Johannesburg (AFP) – Mamelodi Sundowns won and Orlando Pirates drew Tuesday in the South African Premiership as the two closest challengers to leaders Bidvest Wits extended long unbeaten runs.

Poor defending by hosts Highlands Park helped Sundowns triumph 2-1 near Johannesburg to stretch an undefeated league record to 28 games from last January and spanning two seasons.

If the Pretoria outfit avoid defeat in their next three Premiership outings they will equal the 31-match record of Kaizer Chiefs set over two seasons during the last decade.

Soweto club Pirates grabbed a late goal to draw 1-1 with Baroka FC in Soweto and raise to 24 matches an unbeaten run in domestic and African competitions since August last year.

Johannesburg-based Wits top the table with 34 points from 18 matches, Pirates have 32 from the same number of games and trophy-holders Sundowns 31 with three matches in hand.

A careless back-pass from Highlands allowed Thapelo Morena to give 2016 African champions Sundowns a 12th-minute lead they increased to two goals midway through the opening half.

The home side had several chances to avert danger before Themba Zwane added to two goals he scored in a CAF Champions League triumph over Moroccans Wydad Casablanca three days ago.

More clumsy defending allowed Highlands back into the match on 32 minutes as Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango failed to grasp a routine cross and Lindokuhle Mbatha netted.

Mbatha rattled the crossbar later in the first half and that was the closest the Red Ants came to preventing Sundowns winning for the eighth time in 15 league matches this season.

Brilliant goals direct from free-kicks have been a feature of the 2018/2019 Premiership and another one from the top drawer gave lowly Baroka a 13th-minute away to Pirates in Soweto.

Baroka were awarded two free-kicks in quick succession and Matome Mabeba lifted the second over the wall and past goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane. 

Pirates’ unbeaten run appeared in danger until seven minutes from time when Vincent Pule punished slack marking to nod an equaliser past Zimbabwean goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze.

“Football is not about what you deserve but what you get,” said Pirates’ Serb coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, who believed his team should have collected all three points.

The richest African national football league with 30 million rand (about $2.15 mn/1.9 mn euros) prize money now takes a break with FA Cup matches scheduled for the rest of the week.

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