Johannesburg – A dizzy second-half scoring spree ended with Platinum Stars gaining a commanding 4-2 advantage over Bidvest Wits in their first-leg, MTN8 semi-final at the Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday afternoon.
Amazingly, all six goals were scored in the second half after a somewhat tepid, probing goalless opening period in which both teams lacked potency in front of goal and provided no evidence of the avalanche in scoring that was to follow.
Ironically also, it was Wits who opened the score in the 48th minute when Ryan Chapman bisected a flat-footed Stars' defence and scored with an angled goal with three Stars players appealing for a free-kick instead of doing the business of attending to the imminent danger.
But the setback seemed to spur Stars into action with four goals in a matter of 18 minutes giving them a 4-1 lead to leave Wits hanging on for dear life on the ropes even before their home second leg at the Milpark Stadium.
A shell-shocked Wits, however, barely kept their hopes alive with a late 82nd minute goal from Getaneh Kebede reducing their three-goal deficit with a flicked angled shot catching Stars goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane on the wrong foot.
The valuable goal for Wits at a time when the team looked demoralised was initiated by experienced defender Matthew Booth, who took it on himself to salvage the situation by foraging upfield when many of the other players looked down and out.
But the kudos ultimately belonged to Stars, who are striving to reach their first-ever final in the cup competition for the up-and-coming Rustenburg club that came within a whisker of edging out Kaizer Chiefs for the League title last season.
Man-of-the-match for Stars was Siphelele Mthembu, who started his team's goal glut in the 55th minute and then made it 3-1 in the 70th minute after the scheming Mogakolodi Ngele had put his name on the scoreboard as well in the 62nd minute.
With Wits reeling, substitute Henrico Botes took advantage of a defence that had lost its shape to score Stars' fourth goal in the 73rd minute.
And chances went begging for the home team in the final 10 minutes that could have left Wits dead and buried.
If Stars dominated much of the opening 45 minutes, it was Wits who missed two gilt-edged opportunities during this period when Pappi Faty headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
And ultimately it was Allan Freeze of Stars who won “the battle of the new coaches”, with Wits' former SuperSport United mentor Gavin Hunt leaving the pitch while shaking his head in disbelief. – Sapa