Mauricio Affonso scored injury time to take all three points for Sundowns. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Lucas Moripe Stadium

Mamelodi Sundowns (0)1

Affonso 90+3

Highlands Park (0)0

Mauricio Affonso! This name will be in the lips of Sundowns’ supporters for years to come with the Uruguayan striker quickly endearing himself in their hearts.

The lanky forward came from the bench to help Sundowns snatch maximum points from the jaws of a draw to move to within two points of log-leaders Kaizer Chiefs’ with a game to spare.

Affonso ruthlessly beat Thela Ngobeni who was sensational in goal. His strike is a continuation of a rich vein of form that has seen him score on debut in the CAF Champions League, Telkom Knockout and Absa Premiership.

The Brazilians entered this venue with two goals in their mind – to move a step closer to Chiefs who they face on Sunday and secondly to celebrate the third anniversary of their CAF Champions League victory in style. Three years ago to the day, Sundowns climbed the highest peak in African football to lift the Champions League in Alexandria after beating Egyptian giants Zamalek 3-1 over two legs.

The towering figure in that victory – who sustained an injury in the return leg of the final, goalkeeper Denis Onyango – missed this clash due to a family bereavement. The Ugandan lost his father who was battling cancer and was given family responsibility leave. Kennedy Mweene marshalled the Brazilians’ goal in Onyango’s absence – his first game of the domestic season. He showed he still has it when he tipped into the post Mothobi Mvala’s venomous strike early into the match. That shot signalled Highlands’ intentions.    

The Lions of the North went pound-for-pound against Sundowns to produce an entertaining spectacle with a lot of end-to-end action. Sundowns created the better clear cut chances but failed to take them against a goalkeeper they know well – Ngobeni who was with the squad when they won the 2016 Champions League. Ngobeni saw little action in his time at Chloorkop, but at Highlands he has made the No. 1 jersey his own in a short space of time.

But when it came to the score-line, it stayed as dry as it’s been in the country’s capital that has been terrorised by the heat while the rain stubbornly refuses to come down on the region. The lack of goals, and rain, made the song Sundowns’ fans sang: ha ene pula ya medipi (let the soothing rain fall), have a double meaning. Affonso brought the goal, and such is his efficiency in front of goal he can probably bring the rain if he put his heart into it.

The two goalkeepers were equal to the task when called into action. Ngobeni was the busier of the two. Ngobeni brilliantly stopped Themba Zwane who had broken free in the referee’s optional time.

The Brazilians bossed the match for the most part of the game, but Highlands were no push-overs as they took the fight into the Brazilians and didn’t park the bus like most teams do.

As the match looked destined to end goalless, Affonso popped up late to give Sundowns maximum points and confidence going into their titanic clash against Amakhosi on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld.

Ha ene pula ya medipi rang loudly at the venue after the final whistle with Sundowns showing how they won the league last year, fighting until the end and showing good game-management. 

Bonginkosi Ndadane