Stars hope to end cup jinx

2016-05-11 06:00
SAFE HANDS: Johnny Mathole, Free State Stars goalkeeper, is expected to keep a clean sheet against Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup semi-final.

SAFE HANDS: Johnny Mathole, Free State Stars goalkeeper, is expected to keep a clean sheet against Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup semi-final.

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FREE STATE STARS will face Orlando Pirates in this year’s Nedbank Cup semi-final, looking to end their cup jinx to reach the second final of the lucrative football tournament.

The two giants face off in Goble Park in Bethlehem on Saturday (14/05) in this adrenaline-pumping fixture. Kick-off is at 15:00.

Both teams are gunning for the glory of the prestigious football trophy offering the champions an opportunity to compete continentally.

Ea Lla Koto’s first final in the competition was 22 years ago against Vaal Professionals. This was under previous sponsor and brand name Bob Save Super Bowl. Stars, then guided by the late Zimbabwean-born coach Peter Nyama, lost to Vaal Professionals by 0-1 in the final in 1994.

The likes of Serame Letsoaka, current Bloemfontein Celtic coach, David Vilakazi, Magic Salomane and the late Joseph “Pro” Maputse, featured for Ea Lla Koto in 1994.

The Buccaneers have won the lucrative championship under different sponsors.

Their recent win was in the 2013-’14 season when they hammered Bidvest Wits 3-1 in the final.

Ea Lla Koto are yet to taste the glory of winning the championship.

Their best attempt to win the competition has seen them reach two semi-finals, in 2008 and 2010, against Mpumalanga Black Aces and Wits.

However, the Bethlehem-based outfit crashed in both semi-finals, by 0-1 to Aces and 1-3 to Wits.

Should Stars overcome on-form Pirates in Saturday’s semi-final, they will reach their second final in the lucrative competition.

The effort to reach the final will see Ea Lla Koto make their sixth cup final in history in the premier division.

Mike Mokoena’s team’s only major championship in the premiership rank came with the Coca-Cola Cup in 1994, when they hammered Cape Town Hellenic 3-2 in Bloemfontein.

Should Stars reach the Nedbank Cup final, this will be the club’s second in the competition.

Stars’ big mission to plot Pirates’ downfall will be down to their teamwork and not just individual players, as opposed to the visitors, who rely on the brilliance of Tendai Ndoro, Thabo Rakhale, Mpho Makola and Thamsanqa Gabuza.

Ea Lla Koto are underdogs in this intriguing fixture and depend on unknown names who have the potential to cause an upset. For leadership and inspiration on the pitch, journeyman and captain Paulus Masehe will come in handy for Stars, while rising goalkeeper Johnny Mathole will be expected to be at his best. The match is a test for Giovanni Solinas, the Stars coach.

The Italian-born mentor has performed exceptionally, guiding Ea Lla Koto to the semi-final. Solinas also chases the dream of joining the list of coaches to have guided the Free State team to the final and possibly becoming the second to successfully win a cup after the late Nyama.

  • FREE STATE STARS cup finals record: 1994: Coca-Cola Cup: Qwaqwa Stars vs Cape Town Hellenic: 3-2 ) 1994: BobSave SuperBowl: Qwaqwa Stars vs Vaal Professio-nals: 0-1 ) 1996: Coca-Cola Cup: Qwaqwa Stars vs Mtata Bucks: 0-1) 1996: BP Top 8 Cup: Qwaqwa Stars vs Orlando Pirates: 0-3 (aggregate 4-1 in favour of Pirates)) 1999: Rothmans Cup: Free State Stars vs Mamelodi Sundowns: 0-2.

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