Four Zimbabweans featured for Mamelodi Sundowns as the South African giants maintained their 100% record with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Santos at the Athlone Stadium on Wednesday night in the Absa Premiership.
Warriors captain Method Mwanjali finally made the debut, lasting the entire game together with his club skipper Esrom Nyandoro.
Nyasha Mushekwi was on the field for 63 minutes before being taken off for Mabhuti Khenyeza while Lionel Mtizwa also made his debut, coming in in the 90th minute for Surprise Moriri.
The only goal of a tight game was scored just before half-time by Katlego Mphela.
There was a bright start to the game, with Sundowns enjoying the majority of possession, but Santos also showing a threat on the counter.
Mphela tested Tshepo Motsoeneng early on with a cross-cum-shot, but the Santos keeper reacted well, tipping the ball over the bar.
While Santos struggled to get hold of the ball, they had a good chance in the sixth minute when Erwin Isaacs’ cross picked out Sekou Camara, but the debutant’s control let him down and Calvin Marlin was able to intervene.
Motsoeneng was soon back in action though, having to make another diving save to keep out Matthew Pattison’s long-range effort.
That was about as much joy as Sundowns were to get though, as they became increasingly frustrated by Santos’ resolute defending, the Cape side happy to sit back and absorb the pressure, which they did comfortably.
There were a couple of moments in the Santos box for the visitors, such as Esrom Nyandoro had the ball nicked off his feet right in front of goal in the 35th minute, but despite dominating possession increasingly, clear-cut chances did not arrive.
Finally though, when it just about looked as if they had run out of ideas, Mphela came up with a moment of inspiration, showing determination to unleash a low drive from a central position just on the edge of the box, giving Downs the advantage two minutes before the break.
The game certainly needed a goal, which should have forced the People’s Team into being more attack-minded in the second half.
But in the opening stages of the second stanza, it was still Downs who remained in control, the Cape side not throwing enough numbers forward to cause their opponents any problems.
The Cape side had to end the game with 10 men after Buitumelo Mafoko was sent off for a second caution and in the end Sundowns comfortably played out the final moments without any undue threat to their lead. Supersport