Stars edge Arrows in relegation battle

Free State Stars collected maximum points at home when they defeated Lamontville Golden Arrows 2-1 in their Absa Premiership encounter at Goble Park on Saturday afternoon.

Paulus Masehe and Richard Henyekane found the back of the net for Ea Lla Koto, while Bongi Ntuli scored the only goal for the Durban side.

After a cagey start it was the hosts who came close to breaking the deadlock in the 7th minute as Henyekane almost scored against his former team, but his dipping shot crashed against the crossbar.

Abafana Bes’thende had an opportunity ten minutes later when Ntuli collected the ball in the middle of the park and surged towards the box, but he sliced his shot wide as he was off balance.

Stars were then forced into making an early substitution in the 21st minute, bringing in Danny Venter for Bokang Thlone, who was injured in a collision with teammate Daniel Cardoso.

Themba Sithole’s side continued to try shots from long range but Masehe fired a tame effort straight at Arthur Bartman in the 25th minute, while Henyekane blasted wide on the volley four minutes later.

The opening goal arrived in the 34th minute when Lehlohonolo Thebakang cut the ball back for Masehe, who had enough time and space to drill his shot into the bottom left corner from just inside the box.

Ea Lla Koto should have doubled their lead in the 41st minute as Henyekane played the ball back towards Muhamad Patel on the edge of the penalty area, but the young forward blasted his shot over the crossbar.

Arrows almost equalised under fortuitous circumstances in the 44th minute when the ball ricocheted off Jurie Basie after Tshepo Motsoeneng had failed to deal with a corner, but Cardoso was able to clear off the line.

Ntuli should have leveled matters in the 54th minute when he made a good run to the near post to meet a cross from Thanduyise Khuboni, but he volleyed over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

The Arrows striker fired an effort on target from the edge of the penalty area just two minutes later, but Motsoneneng was able to dive forward to make a low save.

Stars scored their second goal of the match in the 58th minute as substitute Mthokozisi Yende flicked the ball towards Henyekane, who had the composure to place his low shot beyond the diving Bartman.

The visitors battled to get past the Stars defence and continued to rely on long range shots, with Philani Shange curling his effort wide of the left upright in the 62nd minute.

The Arrows winger had an even better effort ten minutes later which also curled wide of the top right corner, while Ntlantla Zothwane shot straight at the goalkeeper in the 77th minute.

In the 81st minute, Cardoso threaded a great pass through for Henyekane, who ran into the box from the right but was denied by a quick reaction from Bartman, who came off his line to make a crucial block with his legs.

Arrows pulled one goal back three minutes later as Ntuli met William Twala’s cross at the near post to header to beat Motsoeneng, who was unable to keep the ball out despite getting a hand to it.

Both sides had late opportunities but Henyekane was denied by another good block from Bartman in the 86th minute, while Twala rushed his effort over the crossbar in the added time.

Stars remain in 15th place with 16 points from 17 matches, three points more than Arrows, who are stuck in 16th place with 13 points from 18 matches.

Free State Stars (1) 2 (Masehe 34’, Henyekane 58’)

Lamontville Golden Arrows (0) 1 (Ntuli 84’)

Teams

Free State Stars: Motsoeneng, Ouro-Akoriko, Cardoso, Thlone (Venter 21’), Masehe, Thebakang, Kerspuy (Yende 46’), Mashego, Basie, Henyekane, Patel (Sekola 59’)

Lamontville Golden Arrows: Bartman, Tom, Katjiukua, Zwane S, Musonda, Ntombayithethi (Zothwane 63’), Hotto (Twala 73’), Shange, Khuboni, Mbewe (Bester 76’), Ntuli.