SuperSport United consolidated their position at the top of the Premier League log with a hard-earned, but deserved 1-0 victory over Santos at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Tuesday night.
With second-placed Kaizer Chiefs playing a simultaneous goalless draw against Maritzburg United, SuperSport now head the log by a clear four points — and it is Moroka Swallows, one point behind The Amakhosi, but with a game in hand, who are now poised as the strongest challengers.
And it was only after 57 minutes of dour, gruelling play that SuperSport finally opened the score through Ashley Hartog’s sweetly timed shot from the edge of the penalty area.
With the penalty area more crowded with players from both sides, a 25m free-kick was deflected to Hartog by Atusaye Nyondo and the promising attacker’s thunderbolt careered into the roof of the net.
Neither side gave much suggestion after this of adding to the scoreline, with SuperSport substituting dangerous Liberian international striker Anthony Laffor with a more defensive player in the 67th minute in order to hold onto their lead.
SuperSport enjoyed 55% of the possession and had 12 corners against Santos’s one to demonstrate their superiority, but moments of inspiration were rare and goals hard to come by.
Tshepo Motsoeneng in the Cape Town team’s goal was busier than opposing number Ronwen Williams, but he was rarely seriously — and ironically it was the promising Supersport goalkeeper who brought off the best save of the match.
And ultimately the teams maintained a reputation for dogged football when they face each other, with half of their previous 34 matches ending as draws — and the latest encounter only marginally different.
Maritzburg United held on for a mini-recovery from a slump against Kaizer Chiefs in Port Elizabeth.
Having lost their last three games in league and Cup competitions, conceding 10 goals in the process, Maritzburg would have been pleased to hold on for a valuable point.
Amakhosi, meanwhile, wasted a dominant first half as United hit back in the second period.
The visitors had far more opportunities in the opening stanza, taking the lion’s share of possession, and their best effort came in the dying stages of the first half.
Mthokozisi Yende fired a thunderous shot wide to the right from the edge of the box in the 42nd minute to leave matters all square at the break.
The hosts, playing at the Nelson Mandel Bay Stadium rather than their home at Harry Gwala Stadium, were far more threatening in the second half.
Felix Obada set up a golden chance for Maritzburg in the 73rd minute, but Fadlu Davids blasted his effort over the crossbar.
An ‘interesting game’
Bernard Parker and Lucky Khune, meanwhile, both fluffed headers for Chiefs from close range in the second half.
“It was a very interesting game,” said Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic.
“We knew they would play well on the counter attack, and though we created a lot of chances, we did not score … But I must be satisfied with one point because if you miss a lot of opportunities, you must lose.”
Vermezovic gave credit to Maritzburg who showed real character in the second period.
“We had a lot of chances in the first half, but they had great opportunities to score in the second half,” he said.
“They are very dangerous on the counter attack, and there were two or three situations where we were very lucky.” — Sapa