A dramatic goal in the dying seconds of injury time netted by defender Zvenyika Makonese earned Orlando Pirates a 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic in their Nedbank Cup first round encounter at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
On the night Celtic created more chances but as coach Owed da Gama said: “We could have won but we did not take our chances. Overall we played well and I am proud of the boys. But it is back to the drawing board and plan for next season.”
The defeat ended Phunya Sele Sele’s season. Celtic will not kick a ball in anger until August when the new season starts.
But the win takes the pressure off Bucs’ coach Ruud Krol whose job was on the line had Pirate lost. Krol has failed to win a trophy in his two seasons in charge and the vultures were starting to circle the former Dutch captain.
Celtic were the better side and had their opponents under the whip but it was Pirates who went into the halftime break 1-0 ahead thanks to a goal from Botswana international Phenyo Mongala in the seventh minute.
Lady Luck was not on the visitors’ side in a fast paced opening half.
Celtic midfield kingpin Prince Olomu hit the woodwork in the third minute when the Nigerian star latched onto to a defence splitting ball from Excellent Walaza.
Bucs struck gold in the seventh minute when Dikgang Mabalane floated a tremendous cross and Mongala did well to beat keeper Patrick Tignyemb and head home the only goal of the half.
Then in the 12th minute it was Mabalane who saw his shot cannon off the crossbar. Bucs had a chance to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute but Thulasizwe Mbuyane fired wide of the target.
Celtic’s Patrick Malokase failed to equalise after he collected a well timed cross from Mark Mayambela in the 24th minute. Bucs in-form keeper Senzo Meyiwa pulled off a brilliant save from a Mayambela rocket that had goal written all over it in the 29th minute.
Celtic defender Ditheko Mototo out-jumped his marker Lucky Lekgwathi at a corner on 38 minutes but his header shaved the upright.
Meyiwa who has shone since Bucs first choice keeper Moeneeb Josephs went into the Bafana Bafana training camp for the Soccer World Cup, pulled off another superb save from a Mayambela free kick in the 42nd minute.
Celtic kept pushing for the equaliser, with Walaza missing well directed cross from Wellington Sambu in the 51st minute. Bucs hit
back on the break and it was Tignyemb who did well to stop a well aimed volley from Mbuyane on 59 minutes.
But Celtic’s pressure paid off when they were awarded a penalty in the 68th minute after referee Faiek Daniels judged that Happy Jele had pulled down Walaza inside his penalty area. Man-of-the-Match Meyiwa almost saved Mayambela’s penalty which slipped under
his body and rolled into the net to make it 1-1.
Olomu missed a sitter in the 76th minute and a minute later Mabalane should have given Bucs the lead but his shot from a tight angle was well saved by Tignyemb.
Meyiwa pulled off another superb save from substitute Dennis Kalala in injury time. But just as the match looked to be heading for extra time, Malokase headed home the winner form a last gasp corner five minutes into the referee’s optional time.
Meanwhile, the first major upset of the tournament was notched by minnows Als Puk Twana who defeated PSL outfit Platinum Stars 3-2 at Olen Park in Potchefstroom in another cup-tie played on Wednesday.
National First Division side Thanda Royal Zulu defeated amateur outfit Peace Lovers 2-1 after extra time in Wednesday’s other Nedbank Cup first round match which was played at Durban’s Chatsworth Stadium. — Sapa