Maritzburg’s new Zimbabwean striker, Cuthbert Malajila, is earning quite a reputation for himself as a giant-killer. He sunk Kaizer Chiefs with his first goal of the season on Tuesday in Polokwane, and Downs last night with his second.
As the season reaches boiling point, Sundowns have gone into chill-out mode, and main rivals Orlando Pirates will have taken notice.
The Brazilians were defeated 2-1 by Platinum Stars in midweek and are losing their grip on the title chase.
Bucs have closed a seven-point gap on Johan Neeskens’s Sundowns from the season’s halfway mark.
This was supposedly a Maritzburg home game – the KZN team had sold their rights for the princely sum of R1-million to the PE municipality, who are desperate to make use of their World Cup stadium.
Almost to emphasise the point, United coach Ernst Middendorp started with a line-up that would have been defensive for an away match. David Booysen and Jeffrey Matuka, both normally right backs, were in central midfield and Michael Morton, usually a defensive midfielder, found himself on the right wing.
Maritzburg might have been defensively set up and well organised, but Downs just did not seem to have the necessary drive to break that wall down.
They could have grabbed an injury-time goal when defender Mor Diouf’s header had to be scrambled clear.
A goal would have come against the run of play, as Sundowns had the clearer chances in the first 45 minutes. Nyasha Mushekwi missed a half volley and a header and Clayton Daniels blasted wide when left free from a free kick.
Sundowns tried to come out with greater purpose in the second half, with Richard Henyekane’s drive having to be well saved by goalkeeper Shuaib Walters.
Mushekwi’s header from a corner was cleared off the line in the 74th, and from United’s breakout Diyo Sibisi blasted over at the other end.
Kulegani Madondo’s 81st-minute pass put Malajila through on the right, and the striker produced a finish that streaked past Calvin Marlin like an astonished eel.
Walters saved from point-blank range from Mushekwi soon after to preserve another big win for his side.