BETHLEHEM – Free State Stars advanced to the quarterfinals of the lucrative Nedbank Cup in recording a 2-1 win over Chippa United in a last 16 round clash at the Goble Park Stadium in Bethlehem on Saturday afternoon.
Stars took the lead two minutes after the half-time break, when skipper Paulus Masehe crouched down to chest height to head the ball home from a corner kick.
The Chilli Boys, as Chippa are known, managed to find the equaliser from a free kick in the 57th minute, when a strike from midfielder Onassis Mntambo took a wicked deflection off the defensive wall to leave Stars goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni well-beaten.
Stars midfielder Goodman Dlamini had the ball in the back of the Chippa goal-net in the 66th minute, but the hosts were denied the lead with the goal being ruled to have been scored from an offside position.
In the 72nd minute, Ngobeni was forced to pull off a class save in diving to his right, to push a powerful goal-effort from Chippa striker Bantu Mzwakali away from the visitor's penalty area.
Stars' defender Bangaly Keita scored the deciding goal three minutes from time, when a throw-in from the right was flicked on for the Guinean international to score from close range in a crowded goal-box.
Chippa did find themselves on the wrong side of a controversial call against Thabo Rakhale in the final seconds of the match, but this time it was the turn of an offside decision against the goal scored by the former Orlando Pirates man.
Stars and Chippa will get an opportunity to renew their on-field battled in league action in Port Elizabeth next Saturday.
The men from Bethlehem have had a wonderful league campaign to date under Belgian coach Luc Eymael and find themselves in third spot on the league table with 37 points from 23 games, while Chippa, who have lost consecutive league outings, are on 27 points from 23 matches.