/ 20 April 2008

Stars shade Santos to move into Cup semis

Santos’ 10-week sequence without a defeat under Botswana Army coach Major David Bright was dimmed at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Sunday afternoon as Free State Stars earned a deserved 1-0 victory to qualify for the Nedbank Cup semifinals.

And, giving credence to the suggestion that Stars may well be Santos’ hoodoo team is the fact that they were also the last club to beat the Cape Town-based combination in a Premiership game in February.

Hero on this occasion was darting, dribbling wizard Jimmy Kauleza, who scored the solitary goal of the game in the 22nd minute at the second attempt after his initial shot had been blocked by Santos goalkeeper Wayne Roberts.

Roberts, in fact, experienced a topsy-turvy game in which he made some superb, instinctive saves, but was also rescued on other occasions by his defenders timeously stopping shots on the goalline.

And, on a balmy, almost cloudless autumn afternoon, both sides played with an element of desperation, if with limited finesse — with the competition’s winning prize of R5-million no doubt on the players’ minds.

If anything, Santos erred by adopting a defensive approach in the first half when they were overrun by Stars and might easily have found themselves three goals down at the interval.

Two shots were cleared off the Santos goalline, with the Stars players adamant they had recorded legitimate scoring efforts.

The second period, in contrast, was evenly contested, with Romano Scott squandering a golden opportunity for Santos and the livewire Eleazer Rodgers unlucky when a cunning, swivelled header had Zambian international goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene beaten all ends up — only to be cleared off the goalline by a defender who appeared out of nowhere.

At the other end, Scott made amends for his earlier miss for Santos by clearing a fierce free-kick off the goalline with Roberts well beaten.

And, despite the intensity of a game in which so much was at stake, it was played in a conspicuously tough, but sporting spirit. — Sapa