Goodman Dlamini’s goal ensured Free State Stars lifted the 2017/18 Nedbank Cup trophy when they beat Maritzburg United 1-0 at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
Resulting from the victory, Stars are now through to next season’s CAF Confederation Cup and will join Kaizer Chiefs.
The Team of Choice had a bright start in the encounter, but they could not break down the Stars defence with their one-touch football in the first 10 minutes.
Although Fadlu Davids’ men had the upper hand in the tie towards the 20th minute, chances were few and far between in the final third.
The Team of Choice kept Ea Lla Koto in their own half as they had more time on the ball, yet could not beat goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni.
However, Dlamini netted for Stars on the stroke of halftime against the run of play. United failed to clear the ball and he beat Richard Ofori with a neat finish from close range – 1-0 to Ea Lla Koto at the interval.
The resumption of the second half saw United coming back with intent of securing an equaliser, but defender Rooi Mahamutsa remained stable at the back for Stars to block Bandile Shandu’s effort.
In the 61st minute, Fortune Makaringe was instrumental for the Durban side, yet their efforts could not yield the desired results.
Towards the 70th minute, United protested for a penalty when Nyiko Mobbie looked like having handled the ball in the box, but referee waved play on.
With two minutes to go, United continued to pile pressure on Stars’ defence and they survived when Shandu tried an overhead kick denying Andrea Fileccia an obvious header into the net, the acrobatic effort went over the cross bar.
The dying stages of the tie saw United fighting to bag an equaliser, but they were not incisive in their decision making and allowed Stars to clear their lines and walked away as 2017/18 Ke Yona champions.
Maritzburg United: 0
Free State Stars: (1) 1 (Dlamini 44’)
Maritzburg United: Ofori, Fransman, Xulu, Shandu (Mokate 72’), Sanoka, Maboe, De Reuck (Matima 48’), Makaringe, Ndlovu, Fileccia, Mekoa (Kunene 65’)
Free State Stars: Ngobeni, Masehe, Mobbie, Mahamutsa, Keita, Phungwayo, Mthembu, Tchilimbou (Makhaula 85’), Dlamini, Jantjie (Mashego 75’), Vilakazi