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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Zwane penalty lifts Sundowns over AmaZulu in DStv Premiership opener

South Africa’s DStv Premiership opened up its season on Friday with a matchup between last season’s first and second placed teams, and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns came out with a 1-0 victory over AmaZulu to successfully start their league campaign. Bafana Bafana playmaker Themba Zwane converted a penalty kick just before halftime to help Sundowns on to a shutout victory in a match that featured few clear opportunities for either side.

As expected, both teams lacked attacking form and timing for their first league match after playing their first competitive games last weekend in the MTN 8 Cup. Sundowns had the better of the opening exchanges and applied a fair amount of pressure, but the final ball was lacking on multiple occasions. AmaZulu on the other hand provided little threat with few ventures forward from a lineup that was defensively oriented.

However, similar to many occasions during last season, Downs found a way to get the result even when their star studded attack was not clicking on all cylinders. In the 43rd minute an attack down the right flank resulted in the ball coming towards striker Peter Shalulile in the AmaZulu penalty area, where the Namibian was tripped from behind as he attempted to control and drew the referee’s whistle for a penalty kick. Zwane easily rolled his spot kick into the net, sending COSAFA Cup winning goalkeeper Veli Mothwa the wrong way for the match’s lone goal.

The AmaZulu squad clearly received a vigorous halftime talk because the visitors came out more inspired to make it tough for Sundowns. A 49th minute free kick came off the wall before AmaZulu’s Keagan Buchanan attempted a well struck volley that went just wide of Kennedy Mweene’s goal, the first time the Zambian keeper was really bothered. A more rigorous high press created opportunities for Benni McCarthy’s side, but that clinical edge in the penalty box was lacking across the 90 minutes.

Shalulile had a chance to double Sundowns lead in the 61st minute with an unobstructed shot from a tight angle, but sent his low effort wide. The best chance for AmaZulu to equalize fell to substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro, but when the 35-year-old former South Africa national team forward took advantage of a goalmouth scramble, he had an open goal to shoot at but his tame effort was well kept out by a sliding Rushine De Reuck.

Sundowns will take the three points despite lacking sharpness while AmaZulu have their work cut out for them to find attacking form. Highlights of the match are below.

Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 AmaZulu