Ajax, Stars down giants

Thabo Johnson

Thabo Johnson

It took the dreaded penalty shootout to decide both semifinals of the Old Mutual Mangaung Cup staged at Free State Stadium yesterday.

Premier Soccer League rookies Free State Stars got a head-start in the duel for regional supremacy when they overpowered fellow Free Staters Bloemfontein Celtic 5-3 to book a place in the final.

Ajax Cape Town, though, were the first to reach the final when they beat defending champions Moroka Swallows 4-2 on penalties in the first semifinal. The Urban Warriors and the Dube Birds went to penalties after they failed to find the net in regulation time of this one-day tournament, which attracted no less than 10000 spectators.

Ajax took full advantage of the Birds' inability to convert their penalties. Ajax's penalty scorers were Eyong Enoh, Brett Evans, Thembinkosi Fanteni and Franklin Cale.

The Birds' penalties were scored by Evans Gwekwerere and Bevan Fransman. Japhet Zwane and Ramahlwe Mphahlele had their kicks saved by Ajax goalkeeper Hans Vonk.

Celtic threatened to run rings around Ea lla koto but Stars came back from 1-0 down to level matters via Jimmy Kauleza in the 67th minute. Celtic had taken the lead via Didier Mvemdje from the penalty spot in the 40th minute.

This was after referee Harry Lekitlane had penalised a Stars defender for handling inside the box. The game ended 1-1 and went to penalties.

Duncan Lechesa, Diyo Sibisi, Kapamba Chintu and Mbuyiselo Sambo converted Stars' penalties, while Ntokozo Sikhakhane and Tumelo Nhlapo scored for Celtic. Lucky Mzizi and Mvemdje missed.