Stars down Arrows

Boitumelo Sekgobela scored the only goal of the game on the stroke of half time, though Ea Lla Koto should have added to their advantage as they were certainly the dominant force on the day.

However, Abafana Bes’thende did have a couple of good opportunities in the latter stages of the game which they failed to capitalise on.

After a quiet start, the teams gradually got themselves into gear. Arrows were the first to threaten a goal, with attacking midfielder Nhlanhla Sithole pulling his shot wide of the target from just inside the penalty area on 12 minutes.

Moments later Stars’ Kingston Nkhatha cracked a fierce shot on target from a right angle but Thulasizwe Khuzwayo produced a sharp save at his near post to turn the ball over the top for a corner kick.

In the 15th minute Arrows’ defence went to sleep and allowed a long ball to bounce through for Aleni Lebyane, but the forward’s attempt was saved by Khyuzwayo.

Just over ten minutes later Nkhatha twice caused trouble with his powerful running as a right-sided attacker, first firing in a low cross that was just begging for a Stars player to score with a tap-in, and then volleying an effort inches wide of the far post after a sublime pass from Manti Moholo to open up the visitors’ rearguard.

The Zimbabwean forward very nearly opened the scoring in the 41st minute, beating Khuzwayo in a race to a long pass and directing the ball on target, but Musa Bilankulu covered his ‘keeper well by coming across to clear off his own goal line.

It seemed as if Ea Lla Koto would not capitalise on their dominance in the first half, but in injury time just before the interval they finally broke the deadlock. Boitumelo Sekgobela, who had been fairly anonymous up to that point, popped up on the edge of the box and provided an excellent side-footed finish into the bottom corner of the net.

Nkhatha continued to provide Stars with a great attacking outlet down the right flank in the second half and on 50 minutes he almost made it 2-0 with a dipping shot that forced Khuzwayo to turn the ball around his near post.

In the 64th minute Thabo Matlaba almost scored his first goal for Free State Stars, rattling the crossbar with a thunderous long range shot after pushing forward and playing a one-two with Sekgobela.

The home side should have had the game well and truly wrapped up by this stage and they were nearly punished for scoring just the one goal when Collins Mbesuma got his head onto Njabulo Manqana’s free kick only to see his effort rebound off the crossbar.

On 78 minutes Arrows again came close to an equaliser, with Joseph Musonda beating the offside trap and teeing up Mbesuma but the burly striker’s goal-bound effort was blocked by Matlaba.