Unbeaten Stellenbosch FC move up to second after slender win over Marumo Gallants
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Cape Town – Stellenbosch FC preserved their unbeaten record with a well-taken 1-0 win over Marumo Gallants in the DStv Premiership clash at the Danie Craven Stadium on Wednesday.
The result allows Stellenbosch to move from fourth to second position with 16 points and are three points adrift of log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns who have a play in hand. Stellenbosch and Sundowns are the only unbeaten teams in the Premiership
For Gallants, it was a disappointing result after their excellent exploits in the preliminary rounds of the CAF Confederation Cup. The 1-0 defeat means that Gallants are still without a win after seven Premiership matches and remained marooned at the foot end of the standings with three points, and one place above rock-bottom club TS Galaxy.
Stellenbosch wasted no time in showing they are the home side, and their midfield kept a tight rein on matters. Their unorthodox football formation of 4-2-3-1 saw their two defensive midfielders and three attacking midfielders impose themselves on the match as the first half wore on.
Their midfield also paved the way for the lone first-half goal after Gallant's four-man rearguard lost their shape in the goalmouth. As a result, Washington Arubi, their Zimbabwe goalkeeper, was exposed and Gallants would pay the price midway through the first half after Ashley du Preez worked his way past the opposition midfield.
With Gallants unable to contain Stellenbosch's threat, Du Preez fed Argentinian teammate Júnior Mendieta, out wide on the left and unmarked. The latter's parting shot struck the upright despite a full-length dive by Arubi. Du Preez, well up with play in the penalty area, pounced on the rebound and clinically steered the ball home.
The first-half possession stakes were shared, but Stellenbosch always looked the more threatening since Gallants could not wrest the initiative from them. By the time referee Thokozani Mkhize sounded the halftime whistle, Stellenbosch returned to the changerooms with their slender 1-0 lead intact.
After the break, Stellenbosch continued to exert pressure in the opening 14 minutes. They forced two corners and were awarded a close-in free-kick. They were unable to capitalise on these dead-ball situations.
After this let-off, Gallants managed to up their game and Stellenbosch keeper Sage Stephens was twice called on to make saves just past the hour mark.
In the remaining second-half play, both sides had chances to score, although the easier opportunities fell to Stellenbosch, who could not find a way past Arubi for a second time.