Pretoria – Free State Stars missed out on an opportunity to move into the top five of the Absa Premiership standings when they were held to a 1-1 draw by the University of Pretoria at the Tuks Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With wet and icy weather gripping the capital city, the teams were set-up for a tough mid-table clash, with Tuks a point behind Stars and in search of maximum points to consolidate their midweek draw to league giants Mamelodi Sundowns.
Meanwhile, Steve Komphela's Free State outfit were looking for their first win in five successive outings.
Anver Esterhuizen broke the deadlock in the 29th minute, sending Stars into the half-time break with the advantage, before Senegalese striker Mame Niang cancelled the opener with his 59th minute left-footed strike.
The hosts started the brighter of the sides and had a penalty shout turned down early on, before Dipsy Selolwane had a stunning long-range effort palmed away by Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, who pulled off an equally superb save to deny Tuks the opener.
Stars had little in the line of opportunities, but capitalised on their first real chance when an accurate delivery from Mbhuyiselo Sambu into the area found Esterhuizen, who headed home past goalkeeper Washington Arubi for the opener in the 29th minute.
Tuks went narrowly wide through Niang 10 minutes later, before Aubrey Ngoma turned on the ball inside the area and got a shot away art goal, but failed to test Mweene, who made a straightforward stop to deny the home side once again.
After the interval, Tuks came out firing and looked to put their visitors under pressure early on, but failed to make their chances count.
That was until AmaTuks made something out of nothing, as the Stars defence were guilty of ball-watching.
It allowed Niang to pick up a ball played over the top of the Stars defence, which Niang hit first time, sending his effort beyond Mweene for a composed finish and his ninth Premiership goal of the season.
Stars struggled to find the rhythm that saw them take the lead into the half-time break, allowing Tuks time and space to stamp their authority on their opponents.
A late double substitution from Tuks boss Steve Barker nearly paid dividends 10 minutes from time, when Thokozani Sekotlong came agonisingly close to taking the lead for his side, pushing his long-range effort narrowly high of the mark.
Niang refused to go away and had his headed effort saved shortly after, with Mweene equal to the task, keeping his side in with a shout as the clock wound down. – Sapa