Baloyi takes Sundowns to the final

Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Brian Baloyi was unflappable, stopping numerous goal-scoring attempts from the Free State Stars, as his team won 2-1 in the extreme heat of Kimberley where they played their Telkom Knockout Cup soccer semifinal match.

Patrick Apataki equalised for Sundowns in the 70th minute after Stars top-striker Diyo Sibisi opened the scoring seven minutes earlier. Sibisi, Sifiso Sithole and Fanyana Dhladhla were denied by the brilliance of Baloyi who thwarted several goal-bound attempts before and after Peter Ndlovu netted the winner after 102 minutes.

Duncan Lechesa tested Baloyi in the third minute when he shot straight at the former Bafana Bafana keeper. Sibisi, the league’s top scorer, gave Benson Mhlongo and Oscar Ntwagae no rest with his tireless running.

The Kimberley heat took its toll on the teams as the first half was played with little creativity. An unfortunate incident occurred when Dillon Sheppard broke his leg after hitting the knee of James Matola.

The former Ajax Cape Town winger was rushed to hospital for treatment while Brent Carelse made his way on to the field.

The hard-running Stars’ forwards finally got their reward when Dhladhla beat two defenders to the ball and his shot was converted by Sibisi.

Their slender lead lasted only seven minutes however, as Sundowns fought back with gusto. A free kick from the right by Josta Dladla caught the Stars’ backline unawares and Apataki got the last touch to force the game into extra-time.

Stars looked better on attack than Sundowns, but Baloyi proved to be a thorn in their flesh as he made a double-save early in extra-time. Baloyi displayed the reflexes of a sprightly cat as he threw himself at the ball and feet of Stars’ strikers.

In the 102nd minute Lerato Chabangu found Apataki on the edge of the area, but the Congo international cleverly let the ball run past him to an unmarked Ndlovu who picked his spot before rifling past a helpless Kennedy Mweene.

Sundowns will now face Kaizer Chiefs, who also saw off a Free State team, Bloemfontein Celtic. ‒ Sapa

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