Highlands Park and 10-man Free State Stars played to a 1-1 draw in their Absa Premiership clash at Makhulong Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The result, which saw strikes from Sibusiso Hlubi and Peter Shalulile for the visitors and hosts respectively, sees the Lions of the North remain in eighth place on the log, while Ea Lla Koto move to the safety of 13th and push Chippa United into the relegation playoff berth.
Stars made a strong start to the match and claimed the lead as early as the eighth minute, with attacker Sibusiso Hlubi sending an effort beyond the reach of Highlands goalkeeper Marlon Heugh following an excellent long throw-in from Rooi Mahamutsa.
The hosts took some some time to settle into matter after going behind, but through the likes of Ryan Rae and Mothobi Mvala they were able to establish a foothold in the game.
The Lions of the North’s perseverance paid off in the 39th minute when Namibian forward Peter Shalulile forced home the ball in a penalty area scramble to make it 1-1 and ensure the teams were at a level pegging heading into the interval.
Highlands made a midfield change at the start of the second half, replacing Jabulani Shongwe with Mokete Mogaila, while Stars looked to sharpen up their attack on the hour mark when they sent on Harris Tchilimbou.
The teams were cancelling each other out for the most part, but Highlands received a major boost when Stars defender Sifiso Mbhele was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.
The hosts looked to make the most of their numerical advantage in what remained of the game, including sending on the speedy Lindokuhle Mbatha to try and stretch Stars’ defence, but they were unable to find a way past goalkeeper Samkelo Mbambo.
The teams will return to league action next midweek, with Highlands away to Cape Town City on Tuesday 23 April and Stars at home to Baroka FC on Wednesday 24 April.
Highlands Park (1) 1 (Shalulile 39’)
Free State Stars (1) 1 (Hlubi 8’)
Highlands: Heugh, L. Mokoena, Fransman, Motsepe, Ramoraka, Mahlangu, Rae, Shongwe (Mogaila 46’), Nyembe (Mbatha 78’), Mvala, Shalulile
Stars: Mbambo, Mobbie, Mahamutsa, Mathumo, Mbhele, Makhaula, Masehe, Mokhuoane (Tchilimbou 60’), Dlamini (Jappie 90+3’), Hlubi (Phungwayo 63’), Rodgers