Clinton Larsen has hit out at the ridiculous refereeing decision that handed Orlando Pirates a place in the MTN8 semi-finals this weekend.
Bloemfontein Celtic were holding the Buccaneers to a goalless draw with 10 minutes to go at Orlando Stadium when referee Zolile Mthetho pointed to the spot, as Kurt Lentjies slipped in the box, Pirates winger Sifiso Myeni’s touch rolling against the Celtic midfielder’s arm.
Lentjies’ arm was not away from his body, and the handball was in no way deliberate, so for Mthetho to give a penalty bordered on the absurd, and added fuel to the feeling that the “bigger” clubs in South Africa tend to get the better side of controversy far too much.
“When it happens so late in the game, officials sometimes find it difficult against the bigger teams not to give those type of decisions,” said the diplomatic Celtic coach.
“Lentjies was lying on the ground and the ball rolled against him. His arm was not outstretched. It was a bit harsh but you learn to live with these decisions against so-called bigger clubs.
“The problem is that we are seeing these decisions happen time and time again against not just Celtic, but so many small to medium-sized clubs.
“Hopefully the officials can be a lot stronger … in the future.”
Andile Jali sent Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb the wrong way from the spot to put Pirates into the last four, though they will surely have to improve if they are to capture this competition for the third time in a row.
A blast from Ndumiso Mabena on the stroke of half-time, that stung the palms of Tignyemb, with Daine Klate heading the rebound too close to the Celtic ’keeper, was the best that Pirates could offer from open play.
Otherwise they failed to overly exert Tignyemb until Jali put them in front.
Celtic, meanwhile, were left to regret an opportunity for Thabo Nthethe at the start of the second half, the defender heading over from two metres out after Moeneeb Josephs had parried Lerato Manzini’s effort.
“There were two big ones,” said Larsen. “Kurt Lentjies also chested one inside the box and missed his volley, and Nthethe had that one. Those were key moments; in games like this you need to bury your chances.”
The Celtic coach was, however, encouraged by his side’s overall display, with Botswana winger Joel Mogorosi giving Pirates debutant Ayanda Gcaba problems, as he did Punch Masenamela in Bafana’s game against Botswana in June.
“I think Joel is going to have a big season,” said Larsen. “I’ve been trying to sign him for three years and I’m expecting him to really set the league alight.”
Celtic’s young striker Manzini also impressed after coming on in the second half. “He’s a 20-year-old kid, who we started introducing late last season,” said Larsen. “He’s an exceptional talent and he really plays well with his back to goal, he brings others into play. The more he plays this season, I think he’s going to develop into a top quality striker.”
That said, Phunya Sele Sele did look a little thin up front on Friday night, though Larsen says it will only be in January that he might look for another forward. “At this point I am working with a 25-man squad,” he said.
“I currently have 24, and I will be signing a defensive midfielder this week.
“I may look in January to bring in another striker. But between (Siyabonga) Nontshinga, Lennox Bacela, Manzini and Lentjies, I think they can do the business this season.” – The Star