Sundowns to end 2017 on top

Thokozani Sekotlong of Sundowns duel with Lantshene Phalane of Celtic (Gallo Images)
Thokozani Sekotlong of Sundowns duel with Lantshene Phalane of Celtic (Gallo Images)

Pretoria - Mamelodi Sundowns made sure they end 2017 at the top of the Absa Premiership standings with a comprehensive 4-1 defeat of Bloemfontein Celtic at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Thokozani Sekotlong broke the deadlock with a powerful diving header at the start of the second half, before Samuel Mabunda quickly doubled Sundowns' lead.

And while Ronald Pfumbidzai pulled a goal back for Celtic, Percy Tau made sure of the points when he added a third goal for the league leaders, ahead of a final nail in the coffin for Celtic when Themba Zwane fired home a fourth goal.

Both sides started on the front foot, looking to attack with pace, while it was Fares Hachi with a good early run down the left flank for Sundowns, but his cross was cut out en route to Percy Tau in the Celtic box.

The home side then settled into a passing rhythm before Hachi wasted a chance to shoot from inside the box as he opted to pass square, with the chance lost as Celtic contrived to clear.

Sepana Letsoalo then ghosted past a couple of Sundowns defenders before firing a curling effort that clipped the top of the Sundowns crossbar.

Zwane released Tau with a good ball down the right side of the Celtic box, as ‘Downs upped the tempo, but his subsequent cross failed to pick out Oupa Manyisa.

A 12th minute Tau free-kick from the right was aimed at Motjeka Madisha but he could not make contact with his diving header as Patrick Tignyemb collected the ball.

Tau was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring as Sundowns looked to power through the Celtic defence, and after a smart touch with his right foot, he then let rip with the left, only to see his shot hit the corner of the goal and bounce out.

Pfumbidzai drilled a well-struck shot just wide of the Sundowns right upright from the left-hand side as Kekana tried to beat Tignyemb with a massive lob forward from well inside his own half, that the keeper managed to deal with, just after the 30-minute mark.

Celtic had just begun to see more of the ball but were soon pegged back by Downs, who wasted a 36-minute set-piece, from a central position from 20 yards out, that Kekana could only hit into the defensive wall.

Letsoalo almost snuck in for Celtic when he beat Madisha to the ball on the edge of his box but just clipped his effort over the goal and the onrushing Onyango.

The first half ended with Letsoalo hitting a first time shot, under pressure from Manyisa over from close range, after racing into the box to connect to a cross from the left from Jacky Motshegwa.

Sundowns though were 1-0 up just two minutes into the second half as Sekotlong put his body on the line with a diving header from a Tau corner that he powered home.

Tau then forced Tignyemb in a relatively comfortable save on 53 minutes, while a minute later Sundowns had doubled their lead as Mabunda played a one-two with Manyisa before smashing a dipping strike from outside of the area into the back of the net.

Celtic pulled a goal back with a simple finish from the left from Pfumbidzai. It was a mazy run from Celtic substitute Kabelo Mahlasela, who beat four Sundowns defenders before hitting the left upright, with the rebound dropping kindly for the goal-scorer.

The away side grew in confidence after their goal and continued to attack in search of an equaliser, but after a spell of possession with little penetration, Downs were back on top.

Kekana fired into the side netting on 75 minutes, before Tau sealed all three points with a composed finish under Tignyemb after racing on to a neat clipped pass from Zwane.

And Zwane buried Celtic with a swept finish into the back of the net following a simple move forward that saw him fed with a delightful ball from Yannick Zakri.

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