Blow for FS Stars

2009-03-05 12:24

Johannesburg - Free State Stars suffered a massive blow ahead of their Nedbank Cup first round clash against Kaizer Chiefs at the Super Stadium on Sunday (3pm) when their two top strikers, Sthembiso Ngcobo and Tebelo Mofokeng, were ruled out of the cup tie due to suspension.

Both players picked up their third caution in the 0-0 Absa Premiership draw against Platinum Stars at Goble Park on Wednesday.

Stars coach Steve Khompela said losing his two front line strikers was a massive blow, but they are fortunate in having depth, while on the positive side, it also gives other players a big chance to shine against Chiefs.

Komphela will replace the two suspended strikers with two of Paulus Masehe, Saitjheni Tsotsetsi and Mpho Maleka. Said Komphela: "All three have quality and have the ability to trouble Chiefs' defence."

Komphela, a former Amakhosi and Bafana Bafana captain, is only too aware of Chiefs' cup history and pedigree. Chiefs have won more knockout trophies that any other PSL side since they were formed in 1970.

But Komphela reckons this is a good time to meet Amakhosi. "I would rather play Chiefs early in a cup competition than in the semi-finals or final as that is when Chiefs become ruthless."

Chiefs, who defeated Golden Arrows 1-0 in Durban to keep their slight Premiership hopes alive on Wednesday, have a weakness in defence. Komphela is hoping his new striker force will expose that weakness.

Stars have only lost two of 14 matches since Komphela, a former SA Under-23 coach, joined them last December.

Mamelodi Sundowns, who have virtually surrendered any hope of winning the Premiership after dropping seven points in the last four fixtures, face a punishing week.

On Saturday they play minnows Carara Kicks from Welkom at the Griffons Rugby Stadium in Welkom, in the first round of the Nedbank Cup.

Next Tuesday night they meet neighbours SuperSport United at the Super Stadium and at the weekend fly to Mauritius to play local side Phoenix in the African Confederations Cup first round, first leg tie next Sunday.

Downs are reeling from the 2-0 loss to Orlando Pirates at Ellis Park on Wednesday night which seriously dented coach Henri Michel’s plans to win the Premiership title.

But he said he would not be taking Carara Kicks, who play in the coastal stream of the National First Division, lightly and is not expected to rest too many of his regular players.

Said the former French and Ivory Coast national team coach: “I do not think there is such a thing as an easy game. We want to do well in the cup as well as the Confederations Cup. As for the leaguer I do not want to talk about it.”

With the league slipping out of Downs grasp, Michel’s only hope of salvaging the season is by winning the Nedbank Cup and doing well in the continental competition.

Said Michel: “I was disappointed at losing to Pirates but I expect my players to bounce back in the cup match on Saturday.” In another all PSL first round cup tie Maritzburg play their Kwa Zulu Natal neighbours Thanda Royal Zulu at the Woodburn Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

Both teams are struggling against relegation but United scored a major 2-1 win over bottom club Bay United on Wednesday to ease their relegation fears and will be now more relaxed and able to enjoy their cup clash.

Maritzburg are five points ahead of bottom club Bay and four clear of second bottom Bloemfontein Celtic.