It’s not taken coach Veselin Jelusic too long to make an impression at Bloemfontein Celtic – a place in the top four of the Premiership after nine games, and now a Telkom Knockout final next month.
Phunya Sele Sele beat Polokwane City 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday, with the match having finished 1-1 after extra time.
The Serbian arrived an unknown at the Free State-based outfit for the start of the 2016-17 season to try and rejuvenate a side who left it until last few weeks of the previous campaign to retain their top-flight status.
With several new signings like Lucky Baloyi and Ndumiso Mabena alongside the core of the years gone by, Jelusic looks to have found a successful and winning formula.
Celtic’s goal came deep into extra time from the boot of substitute Tshegofatso Mabaso, while Rendani Ndou equalised for Polokwane five minutes before the end.
Celtic will face Bidvest Wits, who beat Kaizer Chiefs by the same scoreline on Saturday afternoon, in the final next month.
Wits have been given permission to wear their home strip in the final on December 2 at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu at 6pm.
This will be Celtic’s first cup final since 2012 under then-coach Clinton Larsen.
Coincidentally, it was the same tournament in which Larsen got the better of his counterpart Johan Neeskens as Phunya Sele Sele beat Mamelodi Sundowns to clinch only their second trophy in the club’s history during the Premier Soccer League era.
Jelusic did not show much emotion in his post-match interview on Sunday, but he would have been ecstatic to have reached a final of a knockout competition in his first season with the South African club.
“As we predicted, it was a difficult game, but both sides gave it their best. We are happy, of course. I would like to commend our players and supporters. This was important for us.
“Wits are one of the best teams in the country. They are champions. We will have a tough game on our hands, but as usual, we are going to compete,” the Serbian said.
Sunday’s game had a slow pace about it, although past fixtures between the two sides have often produced goals.
Seeing the game go all the way to the lottery of penalties was not expected, but certainly became inevitable as the game progressed.
But Mabaso had other ideas following his introduction later on in the game.
Mabena found his teammate in the box through a free kick that looked to have been practiced on the training ground, and the striker got the job done, as he would have been expected.
Ndou’s thumping header cancelled out Mabaso’s goal a few minutes later at the other end, forcing the game into penalties.
Celtic scored four of their five penalties, while hosts City only managed to convert three of their spot-kicks.