Paseka Sekese of Richards Bay FC and Latshene Phalane of Bloemfontein Celtic compete for the ball during their Nedbank Cup Last 16 encounter at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – It was a case of job done for Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free State Stadium on Saturday night as they edged to a 1-0 win over Richards Bay in a Nedbank Cup last-16 encounter.

The National First Division side made Celtic work hard for the victory, with a 66th-minute strike from Tshegofatso Mabasa the difference on the night.

In a game in which had a late red card and a penalty save from Richards Bay stopper Andile Mbanjwa, most of the action came in the second half after a rather dour first 45 minutes in which both teams had lacked punch up front.

The chances which did come in the opening period fell to the hosts, with their best opportunity in the 13th minute when a neatly-worked move enabled Mabasa to pull the trigger from inside the box on the left, but his shot flew over.

The KZN side's only real sniff at goal was on the half-hour mark when Siyanda Ngubo robbed Patrick Tignyemb of the ball after the goalkeeper had carelessly lost possession outside his box, but the latter was bailed out as a couple of his defenders got back to nullify Ngubo.

Apart from that, the only other noteworthy action of the opening stanza was a long-range ripper from Kabelo Dlamini, which veered narrowly over the target. 

Following a lively period of play after the interval, Phunya Sele Sele created a golden chance to take the lead when Menzi Masuku broke down the right and put the ball on a plate for Dlamini, but from eight yards out, he managed to skew his shot wide when it seemed easier to score.

However, the Free State team had their breakthrough soon after when Given Mashikinya cut the ball back for Mabasa, who turned majestically before slotting a low shot into the bottom corner.

The goal served to increase Phunya Sele Sele's confidence levels and after they penetrated with pace down the left in the 70th minute, Masuku's strike hit Richards Bay defender Moegamat Bernard on the arm and a penalty was awarded.

Tignyemb stepped forward for the spot kick, but his weak effort was saved by Mbanjwa, before the Celtic keeper skied what should have been a routine follow-up into the stands.

It did not prove costly as the visitors – who ended the match with 10 men after Katlego Maphathe's nasty challenge on Bongani Sam saw him righty sent off – failed to mount any threat of a comeback, bar a late miss right at the end of the game by Mpho Erasmus.

African News Agency (ANA)