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Nascimento on target as Sundowns regain lead in South Africa

Johannesburg (AFP) – Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento and Namibian Peter Shalulile scored for Mamelodi Sundowns as they surrendered and regained top place in the South African Premiership this weekend.     

Lyle Lakay also netted for Sundowns on Sunday as they triumphed 3-0 away to Orlando Pirates in Soweto to take a one-point lead over AmaZulu entering the final straight in the title race.

Nascimento converted a penalty on 58 minutes, Shalulile punished a defensive blunder after 76 minutes and Lakay fired a free-kick into the net four minutes later. 

AmaZulu had edged Golden Arrows 1-0 on Saturday through a Luvuyo Memela goal in a Durban derby to move two points above Sundowns.

Sundowns have six matches to play and AmaZulu four in what looks like a two-club chase to the finish line as third-place Arrows are seven points behind AmaZulu.

Defending champions Sundowns are seeking a record fourth consecutive title and 11th overall while AmaZulu have never finished higher than seventh in the richest African league.

Sundowns dominated Pirates as they shrugged off a mini-slump in which they took only two points from a possible nine from their previous three league matches and scored just once.

After a dull, cagey, goalless opening half in an empty Orlando Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pretoria outfit took control and could have won more convincingly.

“We had a little bit more time to recover and we know when we are fully recovered we are good enough to beat any team,” said Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi.

“I always knew that with a little bit of a break we would be able to recharge our batteries and come back strongly.”

Manqoba admitted recently that his squad were suffering from fatigue due to a schedule that sometimes involves playing three games within eight days.

Apart from six more Premiership fixtures during May, Sundowns must also face CAF Champions League title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt in a two-leg quarter-final.

Meanwhile, AmaZulu continued a fairytale rise from early-season strugglers to title contenders under coach and former star South Africa forward Benni McCarthy.

Before McCarthy took over, AmaZulu won once in seven league matches. Since he took charge, they have lost once in 19 matches.

The fiercely contested derby against Arrows was won in first-half stoppage time when Memela claimed his eighth Premiership goal this season by rifling a low shot into the corner of the net.

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