Two first half goals by Free State Stars striker Harris Tchilimbou booked Ea Lla Koto’s place in the final of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday night.
Kaizer Chiefs were looking to keep their hopes of silverware alive in the first of the Nedbank Cup semi-finals as they welcomed Stars to the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Steve Komphela had been under immense pressure, but Chiefs had an opportunity to salvage their campaign with cup success.
With so much at stake, Komphela opted for a team with a blend of youth and experience. The most notable absentee was Teenage Hadebe, who was deemed unfit.
Meanwhile, for Ea Lla Koto and coach Luc Eymael, the Nedbank Cup offered them a chance to end off an impressive season with an even bigger bang.
The Belgian mentor, who has been linked with the Amakhosi head coaching job made just one change as he looked for consistency.
Nonetheless, while Chiefs were determined to hit the ground running ahead of kick-off, it would take just 45 seconds before they were brought back down to earth.
Stars benefited from the width offered down the wing as a superb cross found Tchilimbou unmarked at the far post, and the Congolese forward made no mistake as he headed the ball into the bottom corner.
The goal certainly sparked the game to life and at the other end, Ryan Moon had a chance of his own to equalise, but the marksman, who started ahead of Leonardo Castro, sent his header just over the crossbar.
Chiefs were certainly not sitting back and pressurised the Stars defence with their quick passing game.
With just over 10 minutes played, Joseph Molangoane found himself on the end of an intricate move, but Stars keeper Thela Ngobeni was up to the task as he blocked the Chiefs winger’s effort from close range.
Both sides were going at it hammer and tongs which made for thrilling opening half. Chiefs though, were struggling with their final ball which frustrated their fans and technical team.
Following the half-hour mark, Stars tested Itumeleng Khune through Nhlanhla Vilakazi’s long range effort which comfortably fell into the arms of the Chiefs shot-stopper.
But minutes later Khune would be beaten for the second time on the night. Tchilimbou again was the dangerman as he controlled the ball well, before showing good composure as he steered his effort past Khune.
With the crowd growing impatient and in an effort to salvage something from the first half, Komphela made an early change as he removed Philani Zulu for Dumisani Zuma. The substitute would find himself in the thick of things before the break as he came close to a consolation goal, latching onto a cross, only for his header went agonisingly wide.
The resumption of the second half saw Chiefs throw caution to the wind as they sacrificed another full-back in Tsepo Masilela for Castro, but again, the home side was being cut to shreds by the pace of the Stars attack.
Sinethemba Jantjie broke free on goal, but was guilty of holding onto the ball for a moment too long as he was closed down and subsequently shot wide.
Chiefs did have chances of their own but were guilty of squandering several golden chances. Arguably, the best chance of the half fell to Moon as a deflected shot found itself into his path, but his volley somehow failed to find the target.
Thereafter, Castro would also have his coach scratching his head as he sent his header wide in spite of being unmarked and with acres of space to pick his spot.
As the half progressed, the clash was being played at frenetic pace, but Chiefs most likely outlet seemed to be from set-pieces, especially with Moon and Castro in the box. The Colombian had another chance just after the hour mark, but his acrobatic effort again missed the target adding to the fan’s frustrations.
With time running out, Chiefs were bombarding the opposition box in hope of a goal, but even when the Stars defence was breached, Ngobeni stood tall as he repelled the Chiefs attack. Khune at the other end, would be called into action with under 20 minutes to go. Siphelele Mthembu struck a fierce effort which was turned around the post by the Bafana Bafana international.
With the game seemingly out of the reach of the Glamour Boys, their fans headed for the exit door, but Ngobeni did well to be alert as he got down to make a smart save deep into stoppage time.
There was drama immediately after final whistle as Chiefs fans who remained behind invaded the pitch and attacked the players and security personnel.
Luckily, both sets of players and officials managed to run for cover. The move by the angry fans saw Komphela resign as head coach of Amakhosi after three unsuccessful years at the club.