Christmas comes early for Stars against Pirates

Free State Stars emerged 2-1 winners against Orlando Pirates after an action-packed league encounter at Goble Park on Saturday evening.

Pirates had the better of the first half, enjoying more of the ball and also creating a few decent goal-scoring chances. The second half provided some scintillating end-to-end action with Stars doing well to take the few chances that came their way to grab all three points.

There was little goalmouth action in the opening stages of the game apart from two efforts from Pirates striker Justin Shonga which failed to trouble Stars keeper Badra Sangare, while at the other end of the park, Bucs stopper Jackson Mabokgwane did well to keep out Siphelele Mthembu’s 19th-minute header.

The Buccaneers grew stronger as the first half progressed and Sangare made an excellent save on Thabo Rakhale’s stinging drive from the edge of the area after Luvuyo Memela had gone close with a free kick.

The Soweto giants had another good chance just before the interval when the ball broke to Thabiso Kutumela inside the box, but his powerful drive was bravely cleared off the line by Ea Lla Koto defender Bangali Keita.

The action came thick and fast after the restart as Mpho Makola and Sinethemba Jantjie came close with long-range shots at opposite ends of the park before Sangare reacted well to keep out Rakhale’s volley from a tight angle in the 52nd minute.

The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute when Jantjie flew down the line and into the Pirates box, where in trying to intervene, Bucs defender Abbubaker Mobara had the misfortune of putting the ball into his own box.

However, the lead only lasted four minutes as Shonga cleverly played in Kutumela, who scored at the second attempt after Sangare saved his first shot.

Thabo Matlaba had a great chance to grab the lead for Pirates four minutes later but fired over the bar from a good position in the box, with Thamsanqa Gabuza doing likewise in the 71st minute.

The Sea Robbers continued to press for a winner as Matlaba headed over the bar before Riyaad Norodien lashed a 25-yard drive narrowly wide.

But instead, it was at the other end where the winner came as Jantjie stabbed the ball in from close range five minutes from time after a goalmouth scramble in the Bucs box.

Stars had to work hard as Pirates came storming back looking for an equaliser, but they were able to hold on for the win which takes them to within six points of league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.

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