United edge visitors Stars 3-2 to ease relegation worries

2014-03-12 00:00

MARITZBURG United defeated Free State Stars for the first time in 13 league attempts in an electric PSL encounter at Harry Gwala Stadium last night when they edged the visitors 3-2 to ease relegation worries in the Midlands.

Rheece Evans was the unlikely hero as he scored two first-half goals before midfielder Bongolethu Jayiya’s second-half free-kick put the contest to bed.

Stars scored two late goals through Danny Venter and an own goal from United captain Michael Morton to make for a nervy finish, but in the end it was a deserved win for United.

The win saw United boss Steve Komphela victorious against his former club, but more importantly put the Team of Choice six points ahead of relegation-threatened Stars, who remain in 15th position on the log.

The first half was nothing short of frantic, and United thought they had won a penalty when Ghanaian winger Frank Sarfo­-Gyamfi appeared to have gotten to the ball ahead of Stars goalkeeper Tshepo Motsoeneng, but referee Philip Thinyani awarded a corner much to the disappointment of the crowd.

But United supporters would soon be celebrating when Evans smashed in a left-footed volley from a Sarfo-Gyamfi corner, and United had scored inside 15 minutes for their fourth straight PSL match.

United, playing in their now familiar 4-2-3-1, were fluid, and striker Orlando Smeekes almost doubled the lead a minute later when he had a shot blocked on the line and then floated the rebounding header over the crossbar.

But Stars, though outplayed in most areas of the park, would manufacture a few chances of their own.

United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters pulled off a quite miraculous save to deny Stars striker Richard Henyekane on 12 minutes. One-on-one against Walters after being sublimely threaded through by Paulus Masehe, Henyekane’s powerful effort was met by a solid and outstretched Walters left arm in a moment that had the stadium gasping in disbelief.

Evans’s fairytale night continued on 21 minutes, when he flew through the air to meet a Jayiya corner at the far post. It appeared that the angle would be too acute for the fullback, but his jump was timed to perfection and his header went into the left corner to give the Team of Choice some breathing room.

United, perhaps not used to being two goals up, began to relax a little and it nearly cost them when some lazy defending saw Henyekane through for his second golden chance of the night. This time the striker beat Walters, but his effort was dragged just left of the United goal.

Henyekane was at it again with 10 minutes to go in the first half when a crossed free-kick from distance beat everybody as it appeared destined for the far post, but Walters was on hand once more as he made a good save low and to his left.

United could have gone three up just before half time when Smeekes did phenomenally well to pinch the ball off Daniel Cardoso on the left flank. The Dutchman then squared the ball to Jayiya, whose shot was cleared off the line as the score remained 2-0 at the break.

The second half saw Stars throw men forward in search of a way back into the game and United, already dangerous on the counter attack, became even more threatening as Smeekes and Sarfo-Gyamfi utilised their pace to the fullest.

The game boiled over just past the hour mark when Sarfo-Gyamfi was on the receiving end of a nasty challenge from Stars midfielder Angelo Kerspuy, and both sides were at it as pushes and shoves set the crowd alight.

Remarkably, there were no red cards shown, but Jayiya put United 3-0 ahead from the resulting free kick with a curled effort into the top right corner.

Stars would score five minutes from time through Danny Venter, whose deflected shot from distance left a wrong-footed Walters with no chance, and then again through the head of Morton from a Henyekane corner with seconds remaining.

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