/ 24 February 2008

Bloemfontein Celtic almost let victory slip

Bloemfontein Celtic beat Amazulu 3-2 in a Premier Soccer League (PSL) match at a packed Seisa Ramabodu Stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday, but almost let victory slip as the visitors scored two late goals to make the score line respectable.

Celtic striker Darrel Smith scored in the fourth minute, Pere Ariweriya netted an own goal and John Maduka scored a brilliant solo goal to earn all three points for Phunya Sele Sele. Dumisani Ngwenya netted twice in extra time to give the score line some credibility, but his side remain dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Celtic were all over their visitors from the first whistle and earned the early goal for their initial persistence. The Amazulu defence tried to clear the ball, but it bounced off a Celtic player into the path of Smith, who fended off a defender before blasting the ball into the net.

The Celtic supporters celebrated fervently and spurred their team on for the rest of the half despite Amazulu having more possession.

The Durban side pressed on. Coach Clive Barker urged them on from the touchline and it seemed to work as Amazulu camped in the Celtic half. They met two walls of resistance, though, in centre backs Gary Goldstone and Timothy Batabaire. The defensive duo were alert, determined and hard in the tackle and thwarted numerous Usuthu attacks.

The visitors threw everything forward and Barker even introduced former Bafana Bafana kingpin John Moshoeu late in the first half to add more creativity to their attack. Nevertheless, Celtic remained firm in defence and quick on the counter.

With the half-time break coming up, Amazulu threw all their players forward and this allowed Celtic space to attack. Celtic’s speedy winger collected the ball from his half, sped into the Amazulu half and sent in a low cross that goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje misjudged as he tried to collect it.

The ball bounced off Kakonje and into the path of fullback Ariweriya, who slotted it into the net before Smith could get a foot to it. Ariweriya went upfield for a corner kick and had a chance to decrease the deficit, but his free header went well wide of Posnett Omony’s goalposts.

It was all Amazulu in the second half as Moshoeu stamped his authority in midfield. Goldstone and Batabaire remained steady as the visitors camped early on in the Celtic half. Batabaire, though, got a yellow card for showing his studs despite winning the ball.

Smith and Lebohang Kukane got forward on occasion but failed to test Kakonje as the Usuthu defence seemed determined to not let in another goal. Nevertheless, they could not stop Maduka from netting a brilliant goal. Just as the match was losing its sparkle, the Celtic skipper determinedly pushed forward.

He played a quick one-two with Kukane and although Kakonje got a hand to his strike, it flew into the back of the net and with less than 30 minutes to play it seemed there was no way back for Usuthu.

The hosts started toying with their opponents and their fans applauded wildly at their local hero’s every touch. Moshoeu (42) played with the energy of an 18-year-old, but despite his influence Amazulu could not beat Osmony.

The former Kaizer Chiefs star forced a fine save from Osmony in the 77th minute and Amazulu kept on fighting. Their fighting spirit was rewarded when Ngwenya netted twice in extra time as Celtic went to sleep, but with little time left they could do no more as Celtic held on for all three points.

Sundowns beaten

When it comes to handing points on a plate wantonly to the opposition, there is no one in the PSL who can come close to matching Mamelodi Sundowns.

And with the defending PSL champions in a particularly generous mood at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Wits University gratefully pocketed a 3-2 victory while having only 34% possession and recording their three goals from a remarkable three on-target scoring attempts throughout the 90 minutes.

A sieve-like Sundowns defence contributed materially to all three Wits’ goals.

Vuyo Mere’s faulty back-pass enabled the youthful Bruin Senokoane to open the score for Wits in the 36th minute with the first of his two opportunist goals, with bustling Dale Studinski making the score 2-1 from close range shortly before half-time after Lerato Chabangu had equalised with a well-placed header for Sundowns.

Sundowns camped in the Wits half for almost the entire second period, but it was the Students who snatched a 3-1 lead in the 74th minute through an alert Senokoane after a brace of misplaced passes from the brittle, inaccurately titled Brazilians,

The goal virtually sealed Sundowns’ fate and their hopes of retaining the PSL title for a third successive season, with the champions now only able to reach 57 points in the unlikely event of winning all their remaining 12 matches — and the likelihood that this tally would not be sufficient either.

Wits, on the other hand, are in fourth position in the log after faltering in successive defeats against Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

Wits coach Roger de Sa conceded in a gentlemanly manner that his team was somewhat fortunate to have won, and defended Sundowns coach Gordon Igesund from mounting criticism. ”I didn’t see Gordon make a faulty pass all afternoon,” commented De Sa.

The Sundowns coach, however, can be criticised for sticking with palpably off-form players such as David Kannemeyer and an out-of-position Benson Mhlongo and only bringing on the superior Aldave seven minutes before the end of scheduled time.

No luck for Pirates

Orlando Pirates’ great run of form this year came to an end when Santos beat them 2-1 at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Sunday afternoon.

The home side were the stronger team in the opening 30 minutes of the game, and Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa had to make two early saves to deny Sebastian Bax and then Erwin Isaacs.

Santos were first to score, their early pressure paying dividends in the 19th minute when Romano Scott out-jumped a static Pirates defence and powered home a header.

The Soweto outfit ended the half strongly and Santos goalkeeper Wayne Roberts did well to keep his side in the game, saving from a Teko Modise shot and a Lucky Lekgwathi header.

Pirates were soon on the offensive in the second half, but efforts by Bennett Chenene and Gilbert Mushangazhike were both off-target.

The People’s Team doubled their lead in the 70th minute when a clever ball by Isaacs put Eleazar Rodgers through on goal, and the national Under-23 striker showed good composure to beat Meyiwa.

Bucs tried to fight back but created few opportunities until a 90th-minute goal arrived via the head of Paulus Masehe, but it was too little, too late for the Gauteng team, who head back to Johannesburg empty-handed.

Ajax beat Cosmos

Ajax extended their lead at the top of the PSL table after beating Jomo Cosmos 1-0 in an exciting match at the Orkney Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The visitors are now four points clear of SuperSport United, who are in second place.

The half-time score was 1-0, with the winning goal coming in the 10th minute after Bageta Gikilu scored a free kick.

Jomo Cosmos tried to equalise but were let down by their strikers, the main culprit being Dikgang Madanane. Striker Nkosinathi Nhleko proved to be a good acquisition with a wonderful display, however, and was unlucky not to score.