VISITING South African crack side, Mamelodi Sundowns made full use of their organisation that saw former Caps United star, Nyasha Mushekwi score a first half brace to sink Highlanders in front of an appreciative crowd at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
"We played well because we were better organised, the technical organisation was also good and I am happy," said the Brazilians coach, Pitso Mosimane soon after the match.
They were however almost dealt a heavy blow when their goalkeeper, Calvin Marlin suffered an injury on Tuesday leaving them without a goalkeeper after Dennis Onyango failed to come to Zimbabwe after a malaria attack. Chicken Inn goalkeeper Liberty Chirava was the guest player for the visitors and he came up with one or two saves especially after Highlanders had awoken from their slumber.
Bosso shot stopper Ariel Sibanda will be in goals for the South Africans in their next two matches against Caps United and Dynamos tomorrow and Sunday respectively.
Besides the set-back of missing their goalkeeper, the heavily financed South Africans got off the blocks well and took the game to the 2012 Castle Lager Premiership runners-up with Edward Mnqele asking early questions with a shot from outside the box a few seconds after kick-off that however did not trouble Sibanda as it went well over the bar.
Two minutes later, the clearly fired up Pretoria-based outfit came charging again and this time, Tebogo Langerman's dangerous cross from the left was cleared with a diving header by skipper Innocent Mapuranga who had a good game together with his twin centre back Erick Mudzingwa.
Soundowns were clearly dominant in midfield largely due to the tactic of employing two holding midfielders, Esrom Nyandoro and Mozambican Elias Pelembe.
With their dominance a goal was always coming and come it did in the 13th minute when Mushekwi, so full of running scrambled the goal in, much to the enjoyment of a few travelling fans and the usually hostile supporters who sit at the Mpilo End stand and rally behind any team playing against Highlanders.
Mushekwi was back to hurt his fellow countrymen with a first time shot from the 12 yard box after a beautiful build-up from the Brazilians.
Highlanders coach, Kelvin Kaindu then realised that he was being overpowered in the crucial midfield area and responded by dropping Thabani Moyo to play just behind Cleopas Dube, who became the lone striker. The change paid dividends as Bosso started winning some balls with their first real chance coming in the 26th minute when young Knox Mutizwa let loose a shot from the right flank that however went wide.
He had been fed by Moyo.
Bosso made their first substitution in the 29th minute, taking out right back Lawson Nkomo for Bruce Tshuma and young Mutizwa was replaced by Masimba Mambare. In one of the moves, Dube's shot was cleared from the line by Method Mwanjali with fans already up in the feet in celebration.
Three minutes before half-time Dube made a quick and intelligent turn as he shielded Alje Schut off a Thabani pass but his shot again went over the bar.
The second half saw Mosimane making a double substitution, taking out Mwanjali and Schut for Rashid Sumaila and Emmanuel Baffour while Kaindu took out Peter Moyo and brought in Heritein Masuku while Milton Ncube was introduced for Thabani.
A slightly overweight Graham Ncube came in for Dube while Simon Munawa was replaced by Bhekimpilo Ncube.
The first real chance for Highlanders fell to Graham whose shot was deflected out for a corner by Sundowns following an intelligent move by Mambare who however did not exhibit his best yesterday.
Mushekwi, who had been kept under lock and key by Mudzingwa since his second goal was eventually taken out for Themba Zwane while Laffour was replaced by Eleezer Rodgers.
Former Bafana Bafana striker Surprise Moriri came in for Pelembe as the South Africans were also starting to feel the heavy Barbourfields turf.
Kaindu made his last two changes, bringing in former Motor Action defender Thembani Masuku for Tshuma with Munyaradzi Diya replacing Sibanda in goals. "I think the boys played well considering the conditions and that it was our first full training in a way as we did not have a full pitch," said Kaindu.
He again reiterated the need to have a full complement of staff on the technical bench.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, L Nkomo (B Tshuma 29th minute, T Masuku 85th minute), B Kangwa, E Mudzingwa, I Mapuranga, M Maphosa, K Mutizwa (M Mambare 32nd minute), S Munawa (B Ncube 63rd minute), C Dube (G Ncube 50th minute), P Moyo (H Masuku 46th minute), T Moyo (M Ncube 48th minute)
Mamelodi Sundowns: L Chirava, R Mphahlele, T Langerman, M Mwanjali (R Sumaila 46th minute), A Schut (E Mathius 46th minute), E Nyandoro, E Pelembe (S Moriri 82nd minute), J Shongwe, N Mushekwi (T Zwane 71st minute), E Manqele (R Henyekane 71st minute), A Laffor (E Rodgers 76th minute)