Cape Town – Mamelodi Sundowns moved up to second place in the Absa Premiership standings as substitute Mauricio Affonso scored on his league debut to secure a 1-0 victory over Highlands Park on Wednesday night.
Having scored on his CAF Champions League and domestic cup debuts, Affonso completed the hat-trick with a last-gasp goal in Tshwane.
The game started with a bang as Highlands Park struck the post with a speculative effort from range, and Sundowns posted a response just moments later as a quick breakaway ended with Thapelo Morena firing just wide of the mark.
The visitors again threatened the score on 19 minutes as a corner kick into the danger area saw Sundowns keeper Kennedy Mweene called into action to snap up the ball at his near post.
At the other end of the pitch, Lions of the North goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni was alert to the danger in the 21st minute, quickly racing off his line to snatch the ball before the onrushing Gaston Sirino was able to get a touch.
And the former Sundowns keeper was again called into action just five minutes later as he keep out Themba Zwane’s effort from the edge of the area.
Sundowns had two more chances of note as the first half drew to a close but Sirino couldn’t keep his curling effort down after shrugging clear of his marker, while Hlompho Kekana failed to hit the target from snapshot in front of goal.
The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession after the break and created the lion’s share of goal-scoring chances, but the found it tough to break down a stubborn Highlands Park defence.
Morena fired just wide of the mark one minute into the second half, before Highlands Park’s Lindokuhle Mbatha saw his goal-bound shot kept out by Mosa Lebusa’s last-ditch block.
And Morena was unlucky not to break the deadlock in the 66th minute as he rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot after being teed up by Affonso.
Sundowns kept plugging away but the chances dried up in the final 20 minutes, and it looked like the match would end in a goalless draw.
However, Sundowns gave the visitors a warning of what was to come as Zwane saw his 91st-minute effort tipped wide for a corner.
Just one minute later, they got the breakthrough they were looking for as Affonso arrowed a first-time shot into the top-left corner, Zwane bagging the assist.