Strikers from Zimbabwe and Togo played crucial roles as Mamelodi Sundowns defeated ten-man Free State Stars 2-0 on Saturday in the South African FA Cup semi-finals. Togolese Dove Wome got a straight red card after 20 minutes at Masterpieces Moripe Stadium in this western Pretoria township for stamping on the leg of fallen Zimbabwean midfielder Esrom Nyandoro.
Within 11 minutes, a goalless cup tie full of promise before a large, vibrant crowd in the 25,000-seat stadium was effectively over as a contest after Nyasha Mushekwi created the opening goal and scored the other. The Zimbabwean held off two defenders to get in a cross that Zambia's 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations-winning goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene could only parry into the path of recalled striker Richard Henyekane, who made no mistake.
Rattled Stars fell further behind just past the half-hour mark as left-back Punch Masenamela delivered a low pass into the heart of the penalty area and Mushekwi struck the ball past Mweene. It was the tenth goal of the competition for the Zimbabwean, who grabbed six in the record 24-0 first-round drubbing of amateur club Powerlines in Northern Cape capital Kimberley.
Sundowns will face Pretoria neighbours SuperSport United or Durban-based AmaZulu - who meet Sunday in northern city Polokwane - in the 26 May Soweto final.
Defeat proved particularly bitter for Stars, who knocked out Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in previous rounds, as it was their fourth semi-final exit in six seasons.