Tshepo Tema headed in the winner for Free State Stars against Highlands Park. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – Free State Stars returned to winning ways in the Premiership on a cold and wet Saturday night by beating Highlands Park 1-0 at Goble Park in Bethlehem.

It was not a match of high quality, but the atrocious weather conditions made things difficult for both sides.

The match had to be stopped for five minutes in the first half after one of the floodlights malfunctioned.

Rain fell throughout the match, and one of the goal areas had a huge puddle of water that made things even worse for the players.

Groundstaff tried hard during the forced break as well as during halftime to remove water from the goal area.

It was this puddle in the Free State Stars penalty area that almost led to a goal in the first half.

The home side’s goalkeeper Ali Sangare fell foul to the conditions when he misjudged a pass and slid past the ball, leaving Highlands Park’s Sabello Nyembe with an open goal.

Nyembe, however, could not use this opportunity as he shot low and the ball got stuck in the water.

Free State Stars had the perfect weapon for these conditions, with the tall and industrious Eleazar Rodgers making a nuisance of himself in the Highlands Park goal area.

The hardworking Capetonian, as well as his striking partner Linda Bhengu, did not get enough quality ball.

Yusuf Jappie worked hard for the home side, but his crosses did not always find Rodgers. The few times that Rodgers did get to the ball, there was not enough support from his teammates.

Stars eventually got the breakthrough when the 33-year-old Rodgers headed towards goal for Tshepo Tema to head past Tapuwa Kapini.

This was one of the few goal-scoring opportunities in a match both sides would probably want to forget in a hurry.

This was the first time that Highlands Park lost a match this season.

Matters did not end well for the home side after defender Nyiko Mobbie was sent off after a vicious tackle on Lindokuhle Mbatha in the 74th minute.

With an extra player on the pitch, Highlands Park pressed in the final 10 minutes.

Despite their numerical advantage, there was no fluidity in the visitors’ play, and Luc Eymael’s Free State Stars managed to hold on to their lead to earn three valuable points.

African News Agency (ANA)