Highlands Park proved too strong for Golden Arrows in an Absa Premiership clash on Saturday afternoon, claiming a 2-0 win at the Makhulong Stadium.
Goals from Ryan Rae and Peter Shalulile took the Lions of the North to sixth place on the log, while Abafana Bes’thende drop to seventh spot.
Arrows had the first shot in anger, with Divine Lunga and Knox Mutizwa combining to set up Seth Parusnath in the fourth minute, but he saw his effort turned away by Highlands goalkeeper Marlon Heugh.
Yet it was the hosts who claimed an early lead: Lindokuhle Mbatha’s corner kick found Ray Rae in the seventh minute and the versatile defender struck home a fine effort to put the Lions of the North 1-0 up.
Highlands, with their confidence boosted by the goal, enjoyed a strong spell of dominance which included scoring chances for the likes of Wayde Jooste and Limbikani Mzava, though they were unable to add to their advantage in the opening quarter of the game.
Arrows began to build their rhythm as the half wore on, with Highlands pegged back in their own territory and resorting to desperate challenges to hold the likes of Mutizwa and Sibusiso Sibeko at bay.
Ntsako Makhubela almost brought Abafana Bes’thende level in the 38th minute, capitalising on a loose ball after Heugh couldn’t hold an effort from Mutizwa, but his close-range effort struck the woodwork.
The half ended with Highlands 1-0 to the good, and the second stanza opened with the hosts making a tactical substitution: Jooste made way for Mokete Mogaila as they looked to bolster the middle of the park.
And the Lions of the North again struck early in the half, this time via a penalty after Peter Shalulile was brought down in the 18-yard area. The Namibian striker dusted himself off and converted the spot kick to make it 2-0 in the 49th minute.
A few minutes before the hour mark Arrows struck the frame of the goal again, this time Sibeko picked up a loose ball and had the beating of Heugh but not the post, with the Durban side left immensely frustrated at their inability to capitalise on their chances.
The teams traded attacking opportunities through the remainder of the game, but there was no further addition to the score line, leaving Highlands to claim all three points and cap off a fine first half of the season.
The teams will return to Absa Premiership action on the first weekend of 2020, with Arrows away to Maritzburg United on January 3 in a provincial derby, while the Lions of the North welcome Black Leopards two days later.
Highlands Park (1) 2 (Rae 7’, Shalulile 49’ pen)
Golden Arrows 0
Highlands: Heugh, Mokoena, Munyai, Mzava (Motsepe 65’), Rae, Mahlangu, Msimango, Mbatha (Letsholonyane 90+4’), Shalulile, Mvala, Jooste (Mogaila 46’)
Arrows: N. Gumede, S. Dube, Sibisi, Mathiane, Lunga, Makhubela (Sibiya 90’), Phiri, Shitolo, Parusnath (Conco 53’), Sibeko, Mutizwa