Free State Stars had a difficult day at the office with a 3-1 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.
Ea Lla Koto were three games unbeaten in the Premiership prior to the trip to Tshwane, but it was a strong showing from the Brazilians.
All four goals came in the first half, with Jeremy Brockie opening the scoring on 12 minutes before a quick-fire brace from Gaston Sirino.
Harris Tchilimbou reduced the deficit with a well-taken goal on 35 minutes and an improved second-half performance saw undowns kept at bay.
Stars were unfortunate to go behind on 12 minutes when Lebohang Maboe’s cross from the right deflected off a defender into the path of Brockie, who hit a first-time volley past Badra Sangare from 17 yards out.
The early opener gave Mamelodi Sundowns the impetus and Aubrey Ngoma drew a foul out of Bangaly Keita inside the area on the left in the 24th minute to win a penalty. Sangare went the right way but Sirino placed his spot-kick into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Sirino showed his class three minutes later as he won back possession on the right touchline and cut inside before firing an unstoppable left-footed shot beyond Sangare from 21 yards out.
Stars were given a glimmer of hope 10 minutes before half-time when Tchilimbou pulled one back. Judas Moseamedi did well to spin his marker on the edge of the box on the right and cut the ball back for Tchilimbou, who beat Reyaad Pieterse with a fine finish at the near post.
Sangare pulled off a superb double save on 55 minutes to deny first Brockie and then Ngoma from close range, and the visiting keeper was well placed to hold onto the New Zealander’s strike in the 66th minute.
Sirino was pulling the strings for Masandawana, but Stars did well to limit his effectiveness in the second half. The Uruguayan managed to test Sangare with a long-range effort 10 minutes from time.
Ea Lla Koto looked for a way back in the closing stages, but Downs held firm at the back to claim all three points.