Durban – Bloemfontein Celtic coach Clinton Larsen hailed the “special occasion” after winning his first major trophy in his home city of Durban on Saturday night.
Joel Mogorosi fired home a controversial second-half header to hand Siwelele a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout final at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Larsen, born in the east coast city where he played for the now defunct Manning Rangers for most of his career, guided the Free State side to their third major trophy and their first since 2005 when they won the top-eight competition.
“I said when the draw was made that it might be a good omen for the game to be here in Durban,” Larsen said.
“I was born here, my family and friends and entire support structure is in KZN.
“The support I had in the build-up from them was phenomenal. So it’s a special, special occasion.”
The Brazilians enjoyed a stronger start but failed to make the most of their openings with Teko Modise, Richard Henyekane, Themba Zwane and Abel Mabaso all squandering chances.
Lennox Bacela and Ruzaigh Gamildien had the best opportunity for Celtic in the first half before they took the lead two minutes into the second period.
Mogorosi's goal was awarded by referee Phillip Tinyani after linesman Thembisile Windvoel raised his flag, despite replays failing to show that the whole ball had crossed the line.
Sundowns tried desperately to respond, but they were poor in the final third as Larsen’s men held on for the R4.25 million prize.
“Sundowns were the better team, especially in the first half,” said the Celtic boss.
“Fortunately for us, their decision making in the final third let them down.
“It took a collective effort from this team and we’ve always said that when you come up against a quality team like Sundowns, you need to have two things in your arsenal Ä you’ve got to fight as a collective unit and you’ve got to be fit.
“Overall I’m very happy with my troops. There’s a lot of unsung heroes in this team.”
Larsen, whose side beat Chippa United, defending champions Orlando Pirates and derby rivals Free State Stars en-route to the final, said he would need to keep his players grounded as they shifted their focus back on the league campaign.
Celtic, lying eighth in the Premiership table, face SuperSport United in Atteridgeville on Tuesday evening.
“There’s no celebration for us tonight. We’ve got a game in three days time against SuperSport.
“All celebrations will be put on hold until December 19 or 20
when we finish the four games we have left (before the Christmas break).
“It will be business as usual and my technical staff and I will be working hard to keep the players’ feet on the ground, especially youngsters who would have experienced this euphoria for the first time.” – Sapa