Siphelele Mthembu scored the only goal of the game as Free State Stars claimed a 1-0 Absa Premiership win over SuperSport United at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Wednesday evening.
Patrick Phungwayo received his marching orders midway through the second half, but Ea Lla Koto held on to move up to sixth place on the log standings.
Matsatsantsa remain in 11th spot as their winless run grows to three matches.
The hosts conjured the first shot in anger on seven minutes, with Makhehleni Makhaula guiding his rasping attempt straight at Reyaad Pieterse.
Stars started the game the brighter of the two sides and duly opened the scoring in the 25th minute following a sustained spell of pressure.
A sweeping move down the left flank finished with aplomb by Mthembu. The hard-running forward left with the easiest of finishes following a lung-busting run by Phungwayo – the former Orlando Pirates fullback putting the ball on a silver platter for his teammate.
Goodman Dlamini came within inches of doubling Ea Lla Koto’s lead soon after, but Pieterse pulled off a stunning save to deny the visitors a second.
Luy Eyamael’s troops were all over Matsatsantsa and with frustration mounting on the SuperSport bench, tempers started to flair, and goalkeeper coach Andre Arendse was duly sent to take seat in the stands.
Pieterse was called into action once more in the 40th minute with the shot-stopper forced into a world class save to deny Mthembu. The forward unable to find the back of the net with the goal at his mercy as SuperSport’s burly goal-minder came to their rescue.
It was no surprise then that Eric Tinkler changed things up at the break with Reneilwe Letsholonyane coming in for Thato Mokeke as Matsatsantsa shifted to a four man defence, with Clayton Daniels deployed in a holding role.
Matsatsantsa started to find their rhythm as the game edged towards the hour mark and flexed their muscles in the 64th minute, only for Jeremy Brockie to find nothing but air as the ball fell to him in a dangerous area.
Ea Lla Koto suffered a major blow four minutes later as Phungwayo – well on his way to a man-of-the-match accolade – received his marching orders following a brutal challenge on Siyabonga Nhlapo.
Despite being a man down, Stars had a chance to put the game to bed in the 78th minute, but Sinethemba Jantjie failed to hit the target after being put through straight on goal.
Sifiso Myeni failed to find the back of the net after Letsholonyane teed up the attacker, with Badra Ali Sangare well positioned to make his first real save of the match in the 84th minute.
SuperSport, though, should’ve rescued a point in stoppage-time, but Bradley Grobler miscued his attempt from close range as Stars held on for all three points.
Free State Stars (1) 1 (Mthembu 25′)
SuperSport United (0) 0
Free State Stars: Sangare; Mobbie, Keita, Teyise, Phungwayo – Hlubi (Potsane 51′), Vilakazi, Makhaula (Abubaker 63′), Jantjie, Dlamini (Mashego 71′), Mthembu.
SuperSport United: Pieterse; Nhlapo, Gould, Egwuekwe, Daniels (Grobler 80′), Boateng (Myeni 65′), – Modiba, Mokeke (Letsholonyane 46′), Mokoena, Phala – Brockie.