Shalulile strikes as Sundowns crush Swallows to extend lead

Chasing a record-extending fifth straight title, Sundowns stretched their championship lead to four points just six rounds into the season.

Mamelodi Sundowns players celebrate a goal. Picture: @Masandawana/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Namibia star Peter Shalulile scored his fifth goal in six South African Premiership matches on Sunday as early season pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns trounced Swallows 3-0 in Pretoria.

The 2021 Premiership Footballer of the Year and Players' Player of the Year struck on 89 minutes with a diving header past goalkeeper Sanele Tshabalala.

His goal completed a comfortable victory in an empty stadium, due to the coronavirus pandemic, after Slovak Pavol Safranko had given Sundowns a half-time lead and substitute Neo Maema added a second.

Chasing a record-extending fifth straight title, Sundowns stretched their championship lead to four points just six rounds into the season.

Sundowns have 16 points, SuperSport United, Royal AM and Stellenbosch 12 and Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates nine in the richest African league with a 15 million rand ($1mn/870,000 euros) first prize.

While the goals of Windhoek-born Shalulile, 27, have been a key factor in the recent successes of Sundowns, co-coach Rulani Mokwena preferred to highlight teamwork after outplaying Swallows.

"No individual stood out - it was a team effort," said the coach who has been in joint charge of Sundowns with Manqoba Mngqithi since Pitso Mosimane joined Egyptian giants Al Ahly last year.

"We were skilful in the opening half but lacked aggression. Our intensity and pressing was a lot better after a half-time talk."

Swallows, a famed Soweto club, regained top-flight status last season and finished sixth after a Premiership record 20 draws in 30 matches.

But after winning a season-opening knockout competition match and their first in the league during August, they have drawn three games and lost four in all competitions while failing to score.

Namibia goalkeeper Virgil Vries was axed after conceding seven goals in two of those matches, with Tshabalala promoted to face Sundowns after being only the third choice four days ago.

Swallows reacted to the poor results by putting coach Brandon Truter on "special leave" and promoting his assistant, Simo Dladla, who has fared even worse despite insisting that his "plan is working".

Royal, a second division side who bought the franchise of Bloemfontein Celtic a few days before the season began, edged Maritzburg United 2-1 in Durban thanks to a stoppage-time Tshepo Rikhotso goal.

On Saturday, SuperSport United drew 0-0 at struggling Chippa United while Stellenbosch, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, surrendered an early lead in a 1-1 draw at mid-table Baroka.

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