Pretoria – Platinum Stars got their defence of the MTN8 title off to a perfect start, comfortably beating Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Skipper Vuyo Mere netted from the penalty spot just seven minutes in, before Ndumiso Mabena added a second shortly after to leave Sundowns with a mountain to climb by half-time.
Teko Modise's tame free-kick effort deep into the second half pulled one back for the home side but it was not enough as Stars walked away victorious and got their season off to a promising start.
Sundowns, defending Premiership champions, made a return to the top eight competition after missing out last season, while Stars progress into the semifinals and continue to prove their pedigree in the country's premier knockout competition.
Stars' hard work at the top end of the half paid off from the first whistle as Mduduzi Nyanda was brought down inside the area by Tebogo Langerman, who was too slow and committed a reckless foul on six minutes, which drew few complaints from the home side.
Mere stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, handing Stars the early lead over their big-spending counterparts, who had no fewer than four new signings in their matchday team of 18.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts eight minutes later when Mabena doubled Dikwena's lead, following a superb pass from midfield, which unlocked the Sundowns defence and allowed Mabena to slot home from a tight angle.
With little in the way of goal-mouth action heading Sundowns way, the match was brought to an extraordinary halt on the half-hour mark when a swarm of bees, which had gathered on a microphone behind Stars goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane, forced referee Thando Ndzandzeka to stop the game and order the bees to be removed.
Deep into additional time, Sundowns finally had their best chance of the half, but Anthony Laffor failed to direct his header on target and went just wide of the upright following a superb delivery from Teko Modise.
Trailing at the break, Sundowns boss Pitso Mosimane changed Katlego Mashego for Bonginkosi Ntuli, after a disappointing first period.
Ntuli was involved from the start and played his part but still Sundowns failed to inspire in front of goal and struggled to make their mark inside the box.
Modise gave some relief to the home crowd when he managed to reduce the deficit and bagged a goal from the set-piece, following a defensive lapse which cost Mpontshane a clean-sheet.
But that was as far as it would go for the league champions, who bow out of the top eight and will now focus their attention elsewhere. – Sapa