Chiefs pull together to beat Celtic

In what has generally been a bleak and frustrating season, Kaizer Chiefs discovered a ray of sunshine at a scorchingly hot Mmabatho Stadium on Saturday afternoon and qualified for the Telkom Knockout final with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bloemfontein Celtic.

The hero of the frenzied, if generally uninspiring, occasion was Gerald Sibeko, whose stunning 12th-minute volleyed goal from a Shaun Bartlett headed pass made the difference between the evenly matched teams, with the diminutive midfielder almost adding to his moment of glory when another stinging shot ricocheted off the crossbar in the 26th minute.

An element of complacency in the early stages cost Celtic dearly and was eventually transformed into panic and desperation, with the wavering Bloemfontein team never managing to discover the happy medium that could have kept them in contention for the tournament’s lucrative R4,25-million winners’ prize.

The early pace-setters in the Premier Soccer League season while heading the league championship race, Celtic have shed much of their impetus and imagination and now appear more like a team who will battle to secure a position among the top eight in the log.

Chiefs’ relatively greater composure ultimately gave them a deserved, if hard-pressed, success in what was no more than run-of-the-mill football, with the 14 000-strong crowd a contrast to what in the past might have been a near-capacity attendance at the quaint, 50 000-seater stadium.

It was a reflection of the mundane fare being offered in the PSL this season, with the unimaginative Celtic producing only one truly incisive scoring effort throughout the 90 minutes.

But they were thwarted when Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune produced a breathtaking 57th-minute save after Lebohang Kekane had found himself with the goal at his mercy.

Celtic’s lack of imagination and penetration was reflected in the wasteful manner in which they squandered a succession of free kicks on the edge of the Chiefs’ penalty area, with the ball generally ending up high and wide on the terraces.

The substitution of Carlo Scott for Moses Spandeel in only the 37th minute did nothing to ease Celtic’s woes and with Chiefs generally keeping their nerve, they held on to their lead without being unduly troubled.—Sapa

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