United hold Stars to draw
Posted: 6 December 2008 Time: 18:25
Free State Stars' hopes of moving away from the lower reaches of the Absa Premiership were dealt a blow when they squandered both a lead and a numerical advantage to allow 10-man Maritzburg United to salvage a 1-1 draw at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.
Defender James Matola handed Ea Lla Koto a first half lead, but the Team of Choice fought back to claim a draw when substitute Lebohang Kukame scored a late equaliser. However, the hosts only have themselves to blame after missing out on a plethora of scoring chances, including a penalty.
Stars were certainly the better team in the first half, with veteran Duncan Lechesa pulling the strings in midfield with his typical understated style, while left winger Ruben Cloete looked a constant threat with his powerful running, giving United right back Peter Petersen a difficult afternoon.
Ea Lla Koto created a couple of good openings early on, not least when a header over the Maritzburg defence dropped perfectly for Diyo Sibisi in the ninth minute, but the striker blazed his volley a mile off target.
The hosts had to wait until the 36th minute to finally make their ascendancy pay, as Matola timed his run perfectly to meet Thamane Motaung's right wing cross and power a header beyond the reach of goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap.
Stars were certainly good value for their 1-0 lead, but they threatened to be distracted as tempers flared toward the end of the half after some rash challenges, with referee Victor Hlungwane flashing his yellow card with near impunity. The half time interval came at just the right moment for both teams to get into the change room and cool off.
But just 16 minutes into the second stanza, United defender Siphiwe Mkhonza committed a silly foul on Prince Olomu and was booked for the second time and sent off, reducing the visitors to 10 men.
Stars were then gifted a chance to kill off the game, awarded a dubious penalty after Dikulu Bageta was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in the 18-yard area. There was a sense of justice, however, when Gilstrap saved Sibisi's spot kick to keep his side in the contest.
And Kukame ensured his 'keeper's efforts were not in vain, rising highest to power a magnificent header into the top corner of Kennedy Mweene's goal in the 83rd minute from Lucky Maselesele's cross.
Jimmy Kauleza almost won it for the hosts in the dying seconds, beating Gilstrap from close range, but Petersen's superb positioning allowed him to clear the ball off the line and ensure his team took home a valuable point in a game they could well have lost.