Ngobeni heroics sees Stars through to semifinals

Free State Stars goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni’s heroics helped his side reach the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup, as they defeated Ubuntu Cape Town 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

The Ea Lla Koto shot-stopper was the best performer through the 120 minutes of football at the Athlone Stadium and then saved two penalties in the shootout to see his side advance and end the dream of the plucky National First Division outfit.

The home side dominated from early on and looked more than a match for their top-flight opponents, stringing together some fine attacking moves and often calling Ngobeni into action.

Ubuntu deservedly claimed the lead in the 28th minute, with a free kick from the right flank nodded down at the far post to find Taahir Ganga, who sent a headed effort beyond the visitors’ goalkeeper to make it 1-0 to the hosts.

Stars had offered little in attack through the first half, but they equalised in emphatic fashion in the 44th minute, with Goodman Dlamini sending a superb long-range strike into the back of the net to make it 1-1 at the interval.

Ubuntu threatened to reclaim the lead early in the second stanza, with a chance falling for Ganga in the penalty area in the 48th minute, but the forward’s effort lacked venom and was easily saved by Ngobeni.

Ea Lla Koto responded strongly and began to take control of proceedings as the match wore on, with the Free State side more than willing to push men forward and put their hosts under pressure.

However, the score remained level up to the end of regulation time, with the only further notable chance seeing Stars substitute Siphelele Mthembu almost catch Malcolm Jacobs off guard with a shot from a tight angle.

Stars goalkeeper Ngobeni continued his excellence early in extra time when he made a sharp save to turn away a powerful volley from Dillion Goss, and a few minutes later he again kept an effort at bay, this time from Clint Fredericks.

Jacobs performed similar heroics in the 111th minute when Rooi Mahamutsa squeezed a shot through a crowd of bodies which looked destined to put the visitors ahead for the first time, and a short while later Maxime Cosse had the beating of the Ubuntu goalie but saw his effort cleared off the line by Thato Sefoli.

Fulltime brought on a shootout to decide the game and Ngobeni saved the efforts of Duncan Adonis and Goss to see his side advance into the final four of the competition.

Ubuntu Cape Town (1) (1) 1 (Ganga 28’)

Free State Stars (1) (1) 1 (Dlamini 44’)

After extra time – Stars won 4-2 on penalties

Ubuntu: Jacobs, Sefoli, Heutchou-Kuilong, Fleurs, Sigwebela, Chiwunga (Adoni 58’), Donn, Isaacs, Fredericks, Ganga (Cale 93’), Mahlatsi (Goss 78’)

Stars: Ngobeni, Mobbie, Mahamutsa, Keita, Dlamini, Tchilimbou (Makhaula 101’), Vilakazi, Phungwayo, Jantjie, Klaas (Cosse 65’), Anas (Mthembu 46’)

Penalty sequence – Ubuntu shoot first – Donn scores 1-0, Mahamutsa scores 1-1; Sigwebela scores 2-1, Keita scores 2-2; Adonis misses 2-2, Jantjie scores 2-3; Goss misses 2-3, Phungwayo scores 2-4.