Bloemfontein - Free State Stars handed Maritzburg United a crushing 4-1 defeat in an Absa Premiership match at the Goble Park Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Ea Lla Koto dominated the match throughout and created more scoring opportunities than their visitors, but it took a three-goal blitz in the first 12 minutes of the first half to put daylight between them and Maritzburg, whose hopes of avoiding the relegation playoff have been dealt a big blow with this loss.
Stars got off to the perfect start, with Boitumelo Sekgobela opening the scoring in just the second minute of the game. The striker netted from close range, turning home Rudiger Gilbert’s excellent delivery from a corner kick.
The early goal seemed to inspire Ea Lla Koto, who almost added to their advantage in the opening stages from efforts by Manti Moholo, Gilbert and Madoda Motha, and another corner kick saw Paulus Masehe head just wide of the target in the 13th minute.
Stars continued to boss the game and the visitors needed goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters to make a sharp save to deny Motha on the half-hour mark, and a few moments later make-shift striker Thabo Matlaba drove a powerful effort just over the crossbar.
Maritzburg were lucky not to be at least two or three goals down within the first half, but against the run of play they drew level in the 34th minute.
The Team of Choice worked a free kick short, Felix Obada crossed a fine ball into the danger area and defender Mor Diouf reacted sharpest, scoring from close range to make it 1-1.
Stars almost restored their lead just three minutes later, as Sekgobela let fly from just outside the penalty area and rattled the crossbar, having beaten Walters all ends up with his long range shot.
The score was locked at 1-1 at half time.
The Free State side started the second half much as they did the first: scoring an early goal. This time substitute Noah Chivuta provided a cross from the left flank that was headed home by Motha in the 48th minute, putting Stars 2-1 up.
And unlike the first half, Ea Lla Koto were able to convert their scoring chances. Within ten minutes of going back into the lead, they added two further goals to make it 4-1 before the hour mark was up. Matlaba scored the third in the 54th minute and Chivuta netted number four in the 57th.
Maritzburg almost narrowed the deficit on 68 minutes, with Fanyana Mokoena heading on target from Byron Hendricks’ free kick, but Stars' keeper Kennedy Mweene tipped the ball over the bar for a corner kick.
The result sees Stars move - temporarily at least - into seventh place on 34 points.
Maritzburg remain 14th on 25 points, but they will drop into the relegation playoff berth just below them if Moroka Swallows defeat Orlando Pirates this evening.
Free State Stars (1) 4 (Sekgobela 2’, Motha 48’, Matlaba 54’, Chivuta 57’)
Maritzburg United (1) 1 (Diouf 34’)
Stars: (4-4-2) Mweene; Gilbert, Mbo, Mhamha, Gcaba; Lebyane (Chivuta 46’), Masehe, Moholo, Motha (Makola 75’); Matlaba, Sekgobela (Mofokeng 83’)
Maritzburg: (4-2-3-1) Walters; Hendricks, Booysen, Diouf, Ngwepe; Arwuah, Madondo (Davids 58’); Obada, Nyatama (Lawrence 75’), Mokoena; Sibisi