Anthony Laffor scored the only goal of the game as Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Saint George in Addis Ababa on Saturday afternoon.
The result means title holders Sundowns are on the verge of qualifying for the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League.
If the second Group C clash of the day between AS Vita and leaders Esperance de Tunis in Kinshasa produces anything other than a home win, then ‘Downs will progress with a game to spare.
Sundowns had an early scare in defence when Motjeka Madisha sliced an attempted clearance and saw the ball rebound off the crossbar. It was characteristic of a nervy opening few minutes from both teams.
The Brazilians settled into the match and had efforts at goal around the quarter hour makr through Anthony Laffor and Tebogo Langerman, though neither tested goalkeeper Robert Odongkara.
Saint George provided only a sporadic threat to Sundowns’ defence, but in injury time at the end of the first half they were gifted a penalty when Anele Ngcongca was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.
Natnael Zekele took on the responsibility of the spot kick, but was denied by a fine save from ‘Downs goalkeeper Denis Onyango to see the game locked at 0-0 heading into the interval.
The South Africans looked strong after the break and just past the hour mark they nearly claimed the lead, with Percy Tau teeing up Langerman for a grass-cutter shot which was well saved by Odongkara.
On 71 minutes Laffor nearly caught the Saint George keeper napping with a snap shot on the turn, but Odongkara managed to collect the ball at the second attempt.
The Ethiopians had attacking moments of their own, but mostly they struggled to get the better of Sundowns’ defence, led by the excellent Madisha.
The match looked destined to end goalless, but on 85 minutes the Brazilians claimed the lead through a fine finish from Laffor, whose efforts deserved the honour of a winning goal.
The Liberian swept home a low cross from the right flank as Saint George’s defence went to sleep at just the wrong time.