10-man Sundowns held at home by Highlands

Mamelodi Sundowns were held to a goalless draw by Highlands Park in an Absa Premiership clash at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The match was not especially bad-tempered, but still saw eight yellow cards and one dismissal, with ‘Downs defender Ricardo Nascimento sent for an early shower in the opening minutes of the second half.

The result sees the Brazilians move up to fifth place on the log with five points from their first three matches, while the Lions of the North are up to 11th after a third straight draw.

Sundowns enjoyed early dominance, but found Highlands’ defence a tough nut to crack. Junior Sibande was particularly excellent, often popping up in just the right place to put an end to any dangerous moves from the hosts.

The Brazilians’ best hope for a goal in the first half came in the 35th minute when Gaston Sirion played a great diagonal ball into the penalty area – Jeremy Brockie lined up to make a diving header, but Sello Motsepe managed to make a vital interception.

The Lions of the North offered relatively little in attack, though they had the best chance of the first half. In injury time a mistake at the back from Wayne Arendse gifted Sabelo Nyembe a sight of goal, but he lashed a volley high and wide.

Controversy struck early in the second half when ‘Downs defender Ricardo Nascimento was sent off – apparently for an unsavoury remark toward the referee – leaving the home side with just 10 men from the 51st minute onward.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, ‘Downs almost claimed the lead in the 73rd minute – a powerful header from Arendse looked destined for the back of the net, but Sibande made a heroic clearance off the line to keep the score line blank.

The Brazilians again came close to breaking the deadlock in the 87th minute, as substitute Lyle Lakay – with his first touch of the ball – forced Highlands goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini into a diving save with a shot direct from a free kick.

Sundowns will be in action this weekend when they face Cape Town City in the first leg of the MTN8 semifinals, while Highlands will be away at Baroka FC in the league next midweek.

Mamelodi Sundowns 0

Highlands Park 0

Sundowns: Onyango, Ncgongca, Arendse, Nacimento, Langerman, Sirino, Kekana, Zwane, Vilakazi (Lakay 86’), Meza (Tony Silva 81’), Brockie (Madisha 55’)

Highlands: Kapini, Mokoena, Sibande, Motsepe, Mofokeng (Versuur 61’), Mahlangu (Motlafi 68’), Rae (Mbunjana 81’), Haoseb, Mvala, Mbatha, Nyembe