Cape Town – Mamelodi Sundowns kept up their relentless pace in the Absa Premiership title race with another deserved 2-1 victory over Highlands Park at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa.
The action was fast and furious from the get-go, with Sundowns applying all of the early pressure, and it didn’t take them long to start turning that pressure into goals.
It was a defensive error that created the first real opening in the 12th minute, a poor pass succeeding only in finding Thapelo Morena, who found himself with only Tapuwa Kapini in goal to beat and made no mistake to put the visitors 1-0 up.
There was more to come eight minutes later, Morena going from scorer to provider as he won the ball on the left and picked out Themba Zwane, who beat his opposite number Bevan Fransman and sent the ball past Kapini to double the Brazilians’ advantage.
Sundowns were running rampant now and very nearly found themselves 3-0 up inside half an hour after another defensive mix-up for Highlands at the back. Luckily for the hosts, Lindokuhle Mbatha was there to block the ball and clear after Kapini was beaten once again.
But Highlands would pull one back totally against the run of play in the 33rd minute after another error at the back, this time from Sundowns’ star goalkeeper Denis Onyango, who found himself obstructed by Ricardo Nascimento as he rushed out to clear a cross, spilling the ball and allowing Mbatha to pounce and score.
Onyango was on hand to make up for his earlier mistake just a few minutes later when Highlands’ Peter Shalulile found himself with only the keeper to beat. The Ugandan did well to cut the angle and save a certain goal.
Highlands now had a newfound sense of confidence and they nearly drew level through Mbatha five minutes before the break only for the right winger to be denied by the post.
But Sundowns also finished the half with a flourish, forcing two saves from Kapini following good efforts by Morena and Zwane.
After all the excitement of a very open first half, the breakneck pace of the game slowed down somewhat in the second, with Highlands providing more resistance and making life tougher for the visitors.
Goalscorers Morena and Zwane nearly combined for another in the 63rd minute after a good first touch from Zwane saw the Bafana Bafana star offload to Morena, who fired it to the near post and hit the side-netting.
Hlompho Kekana had two shots on target in quick succession midway through, but Kapini proved equal to both of them.
As the match wore on, Sundowns started to show some signs of fatigue, perhaps feeling the effects of their punishing schedule in recent weeks, but while they failed to create much more in attack, they were still able to keep it tight at the back and protect their one-goal lead.
As the final whistle blew it was another job well done for Pitso Mosimane and his men as they moved to within one point of second-placed Orlando Pirates – and three points of leaders Bidvest Wits – with three games in hand.