|Nathan Paulse and Sadate Akoriko © Backpagepix
SuperSport United eliminated Free State Stars from the MTN8 as they came out 2-1 winners at the Peter Mokaba Stadium thanks to goals by Nathan Paulse and Franklin Cale.
George Maluleka and Paulse were handed their official debuts for SuperSport United, while former Jomo Cosmos man Taonga Dondo also walked out onto the field for the first time for Free State Stars.
After a stop-start opening three minutes, Kennedy Mweene made the first save of the game when he pushed over Nathan Paulse’s glancing header, while another debutant Roscoe Pietersen pulled off a good save at the near post from a Free State Stars corner in the 5th minute.
Stars’ first significant attack fell to Dondo, when he received a defence-splitting pass but his final shot in the 12th minute went over the goals.
Despite showing urgency in their attack the visitors were lacking in their final touch once in front of goal, but it was the former Ajax Cape Town players that would change the atmosphere in the stadium.
Gavin Hunt's men played a short corner, which saw Maluleka play a dangerous ball into the box to find Paulse's head and he glanced the ball past Mweene in the 27th minute.
Things weren’t going in the way of Free State Stars and coach Steve Komphela tried to make his thoughts heard, but referee Daniel Bennett wasn’t having it and sent the coach into the changing rooms.
Then Ashley Hartog came close to making it 2-0 in the 44th, after his swirling volley went over the bar, but it was Lucas Thwala who became the first player booked for a late challenge in stoppage time.
No changes were made at the break as United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was forced to palm away a Katlego Mashego cross in the 52nd minute.
Then Franklin Cale converted an excellent curling free-kick. Maluleka’s run around the box caught Mweene off guard as the ball dipped into the far post.
Then Stars pulled one back.
A rare poor moment of defending by Pietersen saw the ball fall to Mashaba, as he broke free and he cheekily curled it into the back of Williams’ net in the 63rd minute.
An equalizer almost seemed destined for Komphela’s side, but an excellent save by Williams in the 71st minute saw him get the slightest of touches to push the ball out of play.
Maluleka unleashed a low shot from range in the 87th minute, but it was easy pickings for Mweene as SuperSport ended 2-1 winners to move onto the semifinal of the MTN8.
SuperSport United (1) (1) (Paulse 27’, Cale 55’)
Free State Stars (0) (1) (Mashaba 63’)
SuperSport United: Williams; Pietersen, Fransman, Thwala, Nkausu; Maluleka, Gyimah, Maluleke (Mdluli 74’), Cale; Paulse(Khenyeza 70’), Hartog
Free State Stars: Mweene; Sambu, Ouro-Akoriko, Cardoso, Masehe; Mashego, Wome (Nomandela 80’), Mashaba, Wiltwer (Mvula 65’); Hlongwa (Chivuta 53’), Dondo