Ten-man FS Stars edge Highlands

Tshepo Tema © Backpagepix

Free State Stars secured a 1-0 victory over Highlands Park in an Absa Premiership match at the Goble Park on Saturday night.

The victory took Ea Lla Koto to 10th place on the league standings, while the Lions of the North remained eighth on the table.

The Lions of the North began the game well as they looked to grab an early goal which would have unsettled the Ea Lla Koto defence.

Lindokuhle Mbatha unleashed a shot from range two minutes into the game and his effort narrowly missed the target.

Highlands were looking to record their second successive league win, while Stars were keen to snap their four-match winless run.

Linda Bhengu, who was eager to impress, saw his effort from range miss the target in the 20th minute as Ea Lla Koto searched for the opening goal.

Stars duo Nyiko Bhengu and Goodman Dlamini both also missed the target with the halftime half approaching.

Highlands' defence which was led by Sello Motsepe managed to contain the hosts until the match referee blew the halftime whistle.

The score was 0-0 at the interval following a tightly contested first-half between Stars and Highlands.

Highlands head coach Owen Da Gama made the first change of the game prior to the start of the second-half.

Moeketsi Sekola, who is a former Free State Stars striker, replaced Molibedi Mokoena as the visitors looked to break the deadlock.

However, it was Ea Lla Koto who took the lead four minutes before the hour-mark after some good work by experienced centre forward Eleazar Rodgers.

The lanky player directed the ball towards Tshepho Tema with his head and the latter directed the ball home to make it 1-0 to Stars, much to the delight of the home ground.

Mbatha tried to restore parity with a long-range shot in the 68th minute, but the diminutive attacker’s effort missed the target without testing Stars keeper Badra Ali Sangare.

The hosts then suffered a blow as they were reduced to 10 men in the 75th minute after Nyiko Mobbie was given a straight red card having made a dangerous challenge.

Stars head coach Luc Eymael reacted by introducing Mpho Maruping, who is a defensive midfielder by trade, with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Sangare had to produce a brilliant finger-tip save to deny Highlands attacker Peter Shalulile in the closing stages of the game.

The hosts then held on to their slender lead and ultimately, Stars ran out 1-0 winners over Highlands on the night.

FS Stars (0) 1 (Tema 56')

Highlands 0

TEAMS:

FS Stars: Sangare, Masehe, Mahamutsa, Phungwayo, Tema, Dlamini, Makhaula, Bhengu (Moruping 77'), Jappie (Mbhele 89'), Mobbie, Rodgers (Matlakala 85').

Highlands Park: Kapini, Motsepe, Sibande, L.Mokoena, Msimango, Mvala, Mbatha, Ramoraka, M.Mokoena (Sekola 46’), Nyembe (Motlafi 64’), Hoaseb (Shalulile 69’).