Aces denied win by Stars

Mpumalanga Black Aces’ hope of avoiding relegation from the Absa Premiership remains an unlikely event after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Free State Stars at the Puma Rugby Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

In a match that AmaZayoni had to win, they seemed to be on course for three points thanks to Warren Bishop’s goal midway through the first half, but were eventually pegged back 14 minutes from the end of regulation time when Noah Chivuta scored for Ea Lla Koto.

The fixture was originally scheduled to be played last Wednesday (March 16) but a waterlogged pitch at the venue saw the game postponed to Sunday afternoon. Stars created the first clear scoring chance of the game, with midfielder Yavanga Nkiadiambu shooting over the crossbar in the 19th minute.

Three minutes later Aces broke the deadlock, as defender Warren Bishop got on the end of Marawaan Bantam’s corner kick and headed home his first goal for AmaZayoni.

The teams cancelled each other out in what remained of the first half, though Stars should have made more of the set pieces they earned.

Ea Lla Koto made a tactical switch at the start of the second half, with Nkiadiambu replaced by the more attack-minded Mpho Makola.

However, it was Aces who initially threatened to add to their advantage, with Joseph Makhanya shooting wide of the visitors’ goal from long range in the 54th minute.

Stars had used all three of their substitutions by the midway point of the second half in an effort to get themselves back on level terms, and their pro-active approach soon paid dividends.

On 76 minutes, two of the visitors’ substitutes combined to level the score at 1-1: Madoda Motha provided a teasing cross from the left flank and Noah Chivuta turned the ball into the back of the net from close range.

Aces threw men forward and managed to pin Stars back in their own half in the closing stages of the game, but the hosts were unable to find a late goal that would have handed them a glimmer of hope.

As it is, Aces are bottom of the log and a full ten points adrift of Moroka Swallows with just five rounds of the league season remaining. Stars remain in eighth place, now on 31 points.

MP Black Aces (1) 1 (Bishop 22’)
Free State Stars (0) 1 (Chivuta 76’)

Aces: (4-4-2) Onyango; Bantam (Khanyile 70’), Rooi, Bishop, Henyekane; Makhanya, Mbatha (Ngwenya 88’), Mathebula, Masondo (Masina 78’); Maleka, Shongwe

Stars: (4-3-3) Mweene; Gilbert, Mhamha, Mbo, Gcaba (Motha 59’); Masehe, Nkiadiambu (Makola 46’), Moholo; Lebyane, Sekgobela (Chivuta 68’), Matlaba.