Johannesburg – Free State Stars put on the heat in the second half of their Telkom Cup game against AmaZulu at a sultry Goble Park in Bethlehem on Saturday afternoon and ultimately ran out comprehensive 2-0 winners.
An opportunist Danny Venter opened the score in the 62nd minute to send Stars on the road to victory, but it was the second goal from dynamic, 20 year-old Ghanaian striker Adam Abdul-Basi in the 84th minute that had the modest-sized, but enthusiastic home crowd in raptures.
Abdul-Basit, signed a three-year contract with the Free State club at the start of the season and immediately rewarded his new club by becoming their top scorer, pounced on a loose ball outside the penalty area and blasted a 25-metre angled thunderbolt into the roof of the net.
It rounded off a workmanlike performance by Stars and emphasised the superiority they have held over AmaZulu in recent years, not having lost to them since 2010 and cementing a 3-0 advantage over the Durban club in all cup matches.
Stars are currently placed eighth in the Premier League table against AmaZulu's fourth position, but the Free State club are renowned for being tough nuts to crack while playing at home.
And Stars held a territorial advantage from the outset in what was a dour opening half in which Amazulu goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini was constantly in action.
“If not for Kapini we might have had the game won by half-time,” said Stars coach Steve Komphela afterwards.
“He came to the rescue of this team on numerous occasions in the opening period and thwarted us in the second half as well when we looked like scoring.
“But my team continued to play with confidence and resolution and the goals just had to come.”
It was Venter who pounced on an AmaZulu defensive error to make the breakthrough with a strike that even Kapini had no chance of saving.
“We were strangely lacking in vim and enthusiasm,” said AmaZulu coach Craig Rosslee.
“And (we) really only put Stars under pressure after they had taken the lead.
“By then it proved too late. But we played with seven players on the injury list and perhaps were due for a rather average performance.” Amazulu, nevertheless, were attacking strongly in the closing stages and might easily have secured an equaliser before Adam-Basit sealed the issue, but some golden opportunities went begging.
And none were easier than the chance Goodman Dlamini had from five metres when it seemed easier to score than to miss, but with the point-blank attempt ending up off-target. – Sapa