10-man Downs held by Highlands

Sundowns were nearly on their way as early as the first minute when Jeremy Brockie was unfortunate not to get a penalty awarded after being hacked down inside the box.

The referee Phelelani Ndaba instead waved away the appeal and instructed Highlands to resume duties on the field of play.

As the half went by, it proved to be an uphill struggle for the Brazilians despite their quality as they failed to move past a stubborn Highlands defence.

Venezuelan Jose Meza, in his first Premiership start, had a decent chance from a long ball but it rolled away from him into the path of Tapuwa Kapini who narrowed the angle.

The Lions of the North were asking questions on the break, and on a few occasions almost caught the host napping.

Such as Lindokuhle Mbatha getting onto a loose ball after possession turned over close to the 18-yard line, but he was unable to play in an inside-pass to Richard Mofokeng.

A telling ball from Gaston Sirino from out wide nearly connected with Brockie, but sterling defensive work saw the ball cleared from his grasp.

Highlands managed to conjur up a few half-chances, but it was nothing worth noting nor threatening to Denis Onyango as the first stanza drew to a close.

The visitors got off to a bright start early in the second half as Mothobi Mvala glanced a header to the side-netting from a corner.

Downs were then handed a blow when centre-back Ricardo Nascimento got his marching orders from Ndaba for dissent.

This forced Pitso Mosimane to reshape his unit, as he brought on Motjeka Madisha for Brockie and adopted a new formation to overload the midfield and stretch the opposition.

What was still missing were goal-scoring chances with neither goalkeeper threatened amidst the offensive approach on either end.

That is until the best chance of the game found Wayne Arendse, who saw his header brilliantly cleared off the line by Junior Sibande on 70 minutes.

As the clock wound down, Toni Silva made his entry for Meza in their second change of the encounter. It was almost a dream start for him, but after running away from his marker he fired into the side-netting.