2 - 3
ABSA, East London
30/11/2008 15:00

Sifiso Vilakazi and Martin Carelse celebrating.

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Ajax into Telkom Knockout final

Posted: 30 November 2008 Time: 17:52

Ajax Cape Town will face Orlando Pirates in the Telkom Knockout final after beating Free State Stars 3-2 in a thrilling semifinalplayed at the Absa Stadium in East London on Sunday afternoon.

The Urban Warriors' Sifiso Vilakazi haunted his former club for the second time in a matter of weeks, scoring a hat-trick against Stars to add to the goal he scored against them in a league encounter earlier in the month.

In an evenly-matched encounter it was strikers Vilakazi and Diyo Sibisi who were the undoubted star performers. The former's three goals decided the outcome of the match, but the latter's excellent performance ensured that it was an engrossing, competitive game.

Contrary to expectations it was Stars who started the brighter of the two teams, and the Free State side took the lead just before the first quarter-hour of the game had elapsed.

A terrific build-up, that saw Ea Lla Koto skillfully shift the play from the right flank to the left, ended with Sibisi scoring a volley on the far post after Ruben Cloete's acrobatic effort had deflected off the head of Ajax defender Clayton Daniels and fallen kindly for the burly striker.

Ferreira blew a great chance to bring Ajax level in the 35th minute, heading over from close range after rising above even goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to meet Sameehg Doutie's fine cross at the back post.

The Brazilian's miss was a warning of the immense threat the Cape side carried at set pieces, a warning that Stars failed to heed when they left their former employee, Sifiso Vilakazi, unmarked at a corner kick. The striker was only too happy to bring his team back on level terms when he headed home from Cale's excellent cross in the 38th minute.

Just three minutes later Vilakazi put Ajax into the lead. Doutie crashed a vicious shot onto Mweene's crossbar and the striker controlled the rebound before sending a rasping shot into the back of the net from close range.

Stars dominated the second half and came within inches of an equaliser five minutes after the restart. A clever ball over the top of the Ajax defence allowed Sibisi to power past Nazeer Allie before getting off a low shot that beat Roberts but clipped the outside of the post.

Moments later Sibisi blazed over with the goal at his mercy after Cloete had broken free down the left wing and played in a good, low cross that the defence failed to deal with.

Ea Lla Koto really began to ask questions of the Ajax defence around the hour mark, with Roberts having to make a sharp save at his near post after an imaginative volley with the outside of his left foot from Cloete.

On 65 minutes the pressure from Stars paid off, with Ferreira's attempted clearing header from a free kick falling to Sibisi; the striker placed a header over the stranded Roberts and the ball was bundled over his own goal line by Ajax defender Clayton Daniels to make it 2-2.

Parity lasted for just two minutes, as Ea Lla Koto's inability to clear their lines when defending set pieces allowed Ferreira to hold the ball up for Vilakazi to poke home a low shot and complete his hat-trick, once again putting Ajax into the lead.

Vilakazi almost scored a fourth in the 80th after a scintillating solo run that saw him beat four defenders, and Nhlanhla Shabalala forced Mweene into a good save with a long range effort just a few seconds later.

Stars' Prince Olomu missed a good chance to level things up again in the 82nd minute, heading over after Roberts could only parry Cloete's well-hit volley.

Ajax had one major scare in the third minute of injury time as Cloete again worked his magic down the left before squaring for Olomu, but the attacker saw his shot courageously blocked by substitute Martin Carelse.

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