Cup final evenly poised

At the beginning of the season, not many would have put their money on Maritzburg United or Free State Stars reaching the showpiece decider, yet both have punched above their weight this season, with a cup final berth just reward for their outstanding efforts.

Pitting fourth against sixth in the season-ending league standings, Saturday’s final looks set to be a close encounter, with statistics giving very little away as to which club has the edge.

The two clubs have met each other on 20 occasions in the last 10 years, but never in a cup encounter. Ea Lla Koto hold a distinct advantage in their head-to-head statistics, winning eight compared to United’s four, however three of Maritzburg’s victories have come in their last five match-ups.

A noticeable eight of their last two encounters have ended in a draw, a statistic which definitely lends to Saturday’s final being a tight battle which could continue beyond the 90 minutes.

In their league battles this season, both sides surprisingly recorded victories away from home, with Stars edging their KwaZulu-Natal rivals 1-0 at Harry Gwala Stadium in September, while Maritzburg trounced their opponents 3-0 in their encounter played at Goble Park in January.

With Saturday’s final taking place in Cape Town, history shows Maritzburg are better travellers to the Mother City than Free State Stars: over the last three seasons across all competitions, the Team of Choice has won three of their five games, while Stars have managed just two wins from their eight games in the Western Cape.

With a high possibility that the season’s last piece of silverware could be decided via the lottery of penalties, Stars will back themselves to emerge victorious, having won their last three penalty shootouts in succession, including their spot-kick victory over Ubuntu Cape Town in the quarter-finals earlier in the campaign.

Maritzburg, on the other hand, have lost both of their last two penalty shootouts, and last emerged victorious via spot-kicks in a Nedbank Cup last-16 victory over Platinum Stars in March 2014.

Cape Town Stadium is set for a competitive affair come Saturday evening, with kick-off set for 19h00.