POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 04, Nathan Paulse of United wins the header from Sadate Ouro-Akoriko of Stars during the MTN 8 Quarter Final match between SuperSport United and Free State Stars at Peter Mokaba Stadium on August 04, 2012 in Polokwane, South Africa Photo by Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

Polokwane – Nathan Paulse and Franklin Cale were both on target as SuperSport United began the new domestic football season with a 2-1 victory over Free State Stars in an MTN8 quarterfinal encounter at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.

Debutant Paulse opened the scoring after 27 minutes when he headed home from another player making his first start for the club, George Maluleka, while Cale doubled the advantage with a fortunate 55th minute free-kick.

Mzikayise Mashaba’s clever finish after 64 minutes gave the visitors hope, but they failed to find an equaliser with Gavin Hunt’s men becoming the second team to move into the semi-finals, joining Orlando Pirates, who beat Bloemfontein Celtic on Friday night.

The first half was free-flowing, but lacked clear-cut openings and Maluleka was first to come close when he found space on the edge of the box after nine minutes, but drilled his effort too high.

Three minutes later, Taonga Dondo returned the favour at the other end by lifting over the crossbar after finding himself in a good position following a good through ball from midfield.

The most clear-cut opening came in the 18th minute when Cale burst down the left and cut back exquisitely to a free Paulse in the centre of the box, but the ball was wastefully headed wide.

The former Ajax Cape Town man then combined with another ex-team-mate, Maluleka, who collected a short corner on the left and fired a shot which was guided in by Paulse at the near post, wrong-footing goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in the process.

Sadate Akoriko could have drawn the visitors level but arrived a fraction late at the far post and failed to connect a Paulus Masehe free-kick.

Ea Lla Koto were dealt another blow in the 38th minute when coach Steve Komphela was asked to leave the dug-out by referee Daniel Bennett for having too much to say, although no card was shown.

And moments before the interval, Ashley Hartog volleyed over as the hosts went into the break in control.

Ten minutes after the restart, Cale swung in a hopeful free-kick from 30-yards out which bounced in front of a surprised Mweene and struck the upright on its way in.

Stars hit back just after the hour mark when Mashaba finished expertly with his left foot from the edge of the box after a blunder from Roscoe Pietersen Ä the defender only managing to touch on Katlego Mashego’s through-ball.

Dondo almost levelled instantly, but his shot to the near post was turned away for a corner by the alert Ronwen Williams.

The Matsatsantsa goalkeeper had to be alert again in the 70th minute when Moeketsi Mvula burst into the box and poked towards the corner, but Williams finger-tipped away for another corner kick.

It proved the last real chance for the Free Staters as United held on. – Sapa