CAPE TOWN - Namibian-born striker Peter Shalulile did all the damage with two unanswered goals that sent Orlando Pirates packing, but Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango was showered with praises at the post-match press conference.
Shalulile's two second-half goals accounted for Mamelodi Sundowns' 2-0 winning scoreline on Saturday at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. However, both Sundowns and Pirates coaches singled out the contribution of Pirates goalmouth custodian Onyango.
“One must give credit to Denis, and maybe that’s why he is Africa’s No 1," said Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
"He kept us in the game, and he made some sterling saves. Those saves now look like we had the game in our hands, but the truth of the matter is if he did not make those saves, the game could have turned out differently."
Pirates assistant coach Fadlu Davids also sang Onyango's praises.
“They (Sundowns) have a top, top goalkeeper," said Davids. "He should have been the 'Man of the match" – he made two, three top-class saves.
“We learnt lessons today and these we have to take. We need to be more clinical in these moments. Sundowns had two moments, and good moments too. They took it, and that was the difference on the day.”
Sundowns central midfielder Andile Jali lifted the Man of the Match award for a sterling performance in the engine room. He was equally effective on attack and defence.
Mngqithi was pleased with the outcome. He said Sundowns are looking to consolidate their hold on the Premiership ahead of the mid-year break.
“One is hoping that, because we are likely to play between 19 and 20 games before the Christmas break, it should give us a little bit of a chance to go to the Champions League knowing we have collected enough points. It is never going to be easy. It is why we take each game as it comes.
“Last season we also earned 13 points in this (early season) cycle, which is always very important. We dropped two points against Chippa.
"We know the rainy days are still coming. There is the second round, and then the Champions League is there as well. At that stage, games will be packed back-to-back. It is going be a little bit difficult so it’s important for us to already put our strategies across to make sure that we achieve the desired targets within the first cycles."
Davids said his team took some time to settle down after an apprehensive start.
“We had a very, very nervy start,” said Davids. "It started immediately with a turnover at the start.
"It put us on the back foot, and we were not getting our structures right to be able to put pressure on the ball. Later, we came back into the game when we took control and finished the first half strong."