Mamelodi Sundowns’ path to glory in the DStv Premiership became clearer on Tuesday when title rivals AmaZulu were upset 1-0 by Baroka at home, while Orlando Pirates were held to a goalless draw by Stellenbosch away.
Sundowns are seven points clear at the top of the log with four games to play, while AmaZulu have three left. This means one more win will give Sundowns the title for the fourth time running.
Pirates are 14 points behind Sundowns in fourth place.
Baroka secured a hard-fought victory over AmaZulu at the King Zwelithini Stadium, and the win saw them leapfrog Kaizer Chiefs into ninth place.
The defeat ended Usuthu’s 16-match unbeaten run.
Baroka saw most of the ball in the opening exchanges with Usuthu defenders Mbongeni Gumede and Tapelo Xoki working hard at the back to keep the visitors at bay.
However, both teams began creating goal scoring opportunities after the half-hour mark, and it was Baroka who broke the deadlock through their Malawian centre-forward Richard Mbulu.
Evidence Makgopa controlled a cross from the left very well before setting up Mbulu, who scored with a wonderful curling shot to hand Baroka a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
Lehlohonolo Majoro then watched in disbelief as his effort was brilliantly saved by Baroka goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke in the 43rd minute as AmaZulu looked to level matters.
Bakgaga Ba Mphahlele came very close to doubling their lead on the stroke of half time when Makgopa hit the upright, and the score was 1-0 to Baroka at the interval.
Samkelo Mgwazela and Thabo Qalinge were both introduced by AmaZulu head coach Benni McCarthy prior to the start of the second-half as the hosts looked to level matters, but neither side could find the net in the second half.
The last chance of the game fell for unmarked Thembela Sikhakhane, but the AmaZulu right-back failed to keep his header on target in stoppage time and the game ended in a 1-0 win in favour of Baroka.
A goalless stalemate in Stellies
In the Cape, Stellenbosch’s goalless stalemate against Pirates at Danie Craven Stadium means the Maroons have now gone nine league matches without a win and remain in 12th place on the log. They are just two points clear of the relegation playoff spot and with all four of the teams below then having at least one game in hand.
The Buccaneers, meanwhile, missed out on the chance to go third on the table, staying in fourth after their 10th draw of the season.
Pirates had their first real threat on goal on the 50-minute mark. Kabelo Dlamini fired a shot directly from a free-kick which rattled the crossbar, though Stellenbosch goalkeeper Lee Langeveldt appeared to have had the effort covered had it been on target.
The Buccaneers opted for a triple change just past the hour mark, introducing Vincent Pule, Fortune Makaringe and Ben Motshwari off the bench, yet the trio struggled to make a major impact on the game.
Pule did test Langeveldt with a shot from a free-kick in the 82nd minute, but otherwise the visiting team were unable to carve out the kind of chances their opponents created in the first half.
Ultimately it was the Maroons’ failure to capitalise on opportunities that was the key facet of the match.