Gaston Sirino of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars on the 07 November 2018 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium / Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Inspired by two quick-fire goals from Gaston Sirino, the Brazilians have moved to within five points of league leaders Orlando Pirates ahead of the teams’ heavyweight showdown this coming weekend.
Ea Lla Koto, meanwhile, have now won just one of their last six league matches but remain just inside the top eight bracket.
Sundowns claimed the lead as early as the 12th minute, with Jeremy Brockie finally breaking his drought. A right-wing cross from Lebohang Maboe deflected off a defender and fell kindly for the New Zealand striker, who crashed home a left-footed volley to make it 1-0.
Gaston Sirino doubled the Brazilians’ lead with a well-finished penalty in the 25th minute – the spot kick had been awarded after a clumsy challenge from Bengali Keita on Aubrey Ngoma.
The Uruguayan netted a second just two minutes later to make it 3-0. He showed his determination to win the ball wide on Sundowns’ right, made his way infield and then struck home a beautiful left-footed shot from just outside the ‘D’ of the box.
Stars pulled a goal back in the 37th minute, with Harris Tchilimbou providing a classy finish to turn home Judas Moseamedi’s cut-back from the right by-line, after Sundowns were guilty of some sloppy defending.
The Free State side went further on the attack with a substitution five minutes before the break, as forward Maboke Matlakala replaced central midfielder Cesaire Gandze, but the score remained 3-1 up to the interval.
Ten minutes after the restart Stars goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare made two brilliant saves in quick succession, first denying Brockie from close range before quickly getting to his feet to close down Ngoma from the rebound.
Sundowns had further chances to add to their advantage, but they were either denied by the excellent Sangare or unable to capitalise on the openings they created. Stars also finished the game with 10 men after Nyiko Mobbie picked up a second yellow card in added time.
Mamelodi Sundowns (3) 3 (Brockie 12’, Sirino 25’ pen, 27’)
Free State Stars (1) 1 (Tchilimbou 37’)
Sundowns: Pieterse, Morena, Madisha, Lebusa, Lakay, Maboe, Jali, Kekana, Ngoma (Mabunda 62’), Sirino (Mahlambi 89’), Brockie (Ali Meza 79’)
Stars: Sangare, Mobbie, Keita, Mahamutsa, Phungwayo, Jantjie (Masina 59’), Gandze (Matlakala 40’), Makhaula, Dlamini, Tchilimbou, Moseamedi (Jappie 74’)