A dogged Bloemfontein Celtic frustrated Orlando Pirates on Wednesday evening, resisting the Sowetan attack to eke out a 1-1 draw. It was an annoying result for the home fans who were hoping their side could make a strong statement in the title race.
From the first minute, the Buccaneers struggled to produce the attacking intent coach Milutin Sredojevic would have demanded from them.
Celtic stood stubborn for large chunks in the following half as the home side look to spread it out wide. The visitors excellently snuffed out any space that presented itself. Vincent Pule in particular had precious little joy as he laboured to find a crossing position that never materialised.
The cagey exchanges continued until an error broke through in the 36th minute. Neo Maema sent in an inswinging corner that discombobulated the Pirates defence who seemed content to watch it ricochet off themselves and land into the path of Mbhazima Rikhotso. The close-range finish was easy and duly applied. One-nile Celtic.
Augustine Mulenga looked to force an immediate response as he drove into the penalty only to be legally muscled to the floor. That was that as the Buccaneers headed to the changing room for what were surely some harsh words.
They had an immediate effect. Pule sent in a curled effort from the left which Justin Shonga nudged toward the bottom far corner. Patrick Tignyemb was only just nimble enough to be able to spring to low to his let to prevent the goal.
It was a small taste of the bombardment to come for the man between the sticks. Celtic blatantly declared that they were closed for business going forward. At almost any given moment they had at least 9 outfield players in front of the ball looking to protect their slender advantage.
For most of the game it looked to be working. Shonga struck a dangerously dipping free kick on the 56th minute but Tignyemb was able to awkwardly scramble it away.
Twenty minutes later he had his most challenging moment of the night as Thembinkosi Lorch shared a brilliant on-two with Thamsanqa Gabuza on the right side of the box before unleashing. His effort was agonisingly tipped onto the post.
Finally, on the 80th minute, Pirates had their moment. Luvuyo Memela picked up the pieces of a forward drive and slotted into the bottom left. One all.
The attack would push for the remainder of the game but were unable to create much beyond a handful of chances sent wide and over the bar as we reached the inevitable draw.
It’s a result that brought mixed feelings around Orlando: with Sundowns losing it takes them to the top of the table but it’s impossible to escape the feeling that this was two points lost.