Any remote chance there might have been for Steve Komphela to salvage his job at Kaizer Chiefs faded within 45 seconds of Saturday’s Nedbank Cup semifinal as Harris Tchilimbou scored to set Free State Stars on their way to a first cup final in almost two decade.
The newly arrived import from Congo scored inside the opening minute and then added a second before half-time as Stars booked themselves a place in next month’s final in Cape Town.
At the same time they have ensured there is surely no way back for the Chiefs coach as Komphela’s chance of finally delivering some silverware to Naturena after three barren seasons in charge, ended on a muggy night in Durban.
Costly defensive errors ultimately proved Chiefs’ undoing, as both Stars’ goal came from simple crosses that Tchilimbou expertly tucked away.
Chiefs had no yet touched the ball by the time Nyiko Mbbie whipped in a perfect cross from the right and Tchilimbou rose unchallenged to head home.
That he had acres of space in the heart of the Chiefs defence spoke to the defensive disorganization that ultimately cost Komphela and his club dear.
Chiefs might have the best defensive record in the Absa Premiership but in this cup game they looked rank amateurs at times
Mulomowandau Mathoho missed the cross for the first and when Patrick Phungwayo put in an innocuous ball in the 34th minute, it was badly missed by Daniel Cardoso and allowed Tchilimbou to finish from close range. Itumeleng Khune had no chance with either, effectively exposed by his two centrebacks.
To their credit, Chiefs did show some fight but managed to miss some incredible sitters as well as finding Stars’ goalkeeper Thela Ngobeni in stellar form.
Ryan Moon was off target with two headers early on and Joseph Molongoane had a shot stopped by the legs of Ngobeni as Chiefs made early chances for themselves that they could not finish.
Komphela had to make drastic changes and brought Dumisani Zuma before half-time and Leonard Castro at the break.
Moon missed a sitter straight after half-time and Castro headed wide with an even worse miss, setting the tone for the rest of the game as AmaKhosi wasted several opportunities to get themselves back into the game.
With some 15 minutes left the objects began to rain down on the Chiefs’ bench, so much so that a police car was driven onto the side of the field.
A security guard was badly beaten by pitch invaders as police retreated and he got caught by hooligans, who laid into him.
Stars last played in a cup final in1999 when they lost to Mamelodi Sundown in the Rothmans Cup. The club also lost in the 1994 Bob Save Super Bowl to Vaal Professionals, just months after their only major trophy success when they beat Hellenic to take the Coca-Cola Cup (now known as the Telkom Knockout).
Maritzburg United host Sunday’s second semifinal against champions-elect Sundowns, who are chasing the league and cup double.
The match at the Harry Gwala Stadium kicks off at 3pm.