Mkhabela brace wins it for Stars
Platinum Stars moved into second place in the Absa Premiership, for a few hours at least, after a deserved 2-1 victory over Bidvest Wits at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A brace of goals from midfielder Enocent Mkhabela sealed the win, while Letsie Koapeng netted for Wits, who were generally below par on a wet pitch that was difficult for the players.
Stars were seeking a record-breaking fifth consecutive league victory, while Wits knew they could overhaul Dikwena in the table with a victory.
Tinashe Nengomasha returned for the visitors from his red card suspension to bolster the midfield, while youngster Letsi Koapeng was again preferred up front to Terror Fanteni.
Home coach Cavin Johnson brought in Patrick Malokase from the start to replace Botswana international Mogakolodi Ngele, but otherwise kept the same side that had beaten Black Leopards in midweek.
There was a good tempo to the opening exchanges of the game, with both sides creating half-chances before Stars did take the lead on 14 minutes.
Henrico Botes provided the knockdown with his chest and Mkhabela fired home from the edge of the area, even if he did not quite catch the shot as he might have hoped.
The lead lasted just two minutes though as Wits fought back to level. Mzikayise Mashaba provided a delightful cross from the left and Koapeng headed home. Siyabonga Mpontshane in the home goal did get a touch to it, but could not keep the effort out.
Botes and Benson Mhlongo missed headed opportunities from corner-kicks, while Tintswalo Tshabalala saw his shot on the turn well saved by Wits goalkeeper Steven Hoffman.
Calvin Kadi shot narrowly over for Wits on the hour-mark, while at the other end Thuso Phala’s brilliant strike from the edge of the area curled just wide.
Stars were ahead midway through the second half though and it was a poor goal for Wits to concede. Vuyo Mere’s free-kick delivery was flicked-on by Botes and Mkhabela was on hand to head home unchallenged at the back post.
Phala almost made it 3-0 when his free-kick from a full 40-yards deceived Hoffman in the flight and crashed against the crossbar and away to safety. It is likely Phala was going for a cross, but almost got lucky.
There were half-chances for either side after that, but Stars were comfortable in holding onto their lead and are fast emerging as the surprise package of this season.
Both these sides will have the week off having been knocked out of the 2012 Telkom Knockout, with their next league matches both being played on November 20.
Stars are away at Chippa United, while Wits host Ajax Cape Town.
Platinum Stars (1) 2 (Mkhabela 14’, 68’)
Bidvest Wits (1) (Koapeng 16’)
Platinum Stars: Mpontshane, Mere, Gumede, Mhlongo, Ngwepe, Phala, Msomi, Mkhabela, Tshabalala (Mbatha 50’), Botes (Mathe 84’), Malokase (Ng’ambi 61’)
Bidvest Wits: Hoffman, Moon, Gumede, Sweswe, Mayinga, Vilakazi, Nengomasha, Papy (Fredericks 87’), Mashaba (Chapman 76’), Koapeng (Langwe 64’), Kadi