Bloemfontein Celtic beat Baroka FC to book Nedbank Cup final spot
JOHANNESBURG – Bloemfontein Celtic became the first team to bag a win under the “new normal” regulations and will progress to the final of the Nedbank Cup thanks to an impressive 3-0 win over Baroka FC in the first semi-final at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
This was a historic match in the South African football calendar as it marked the resumption of the season under the supervised safety and health protocols following a five-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Granted, this match brought delight to the football fraternity after the break, but it also served as a reminder that it may very well be a while before footballers regain their full fitness.
Celtic’s right back Mpusani Tani appeared to be having a flying start down the right wing but his involvement lasted just 20 minutes as he was taken off after pulling a hamstring.
Soon thereafter, Baroka were reduced to 10-man after Ananias Gebhardt clumsily stamped on Lucky Boloyi. That foul, moreover, was an establishment of Baroka’s misfortunes after being let off the hook by Celtic’s attacking contingent on numerous occasions.
Baroka captain and goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze nearly allowed Celtic to opened their account in the first 10 minutes, rushing to no man’s land where Ndumiso Mabena dragged him to the by-line before lobbing the ball over to Sifiso Ngobeni, who failed to put the ball into the empty net.
From thereon, Celtic looked deadly whenever they sent forays into Baroka’s half, but their final balls let them down. It was the team from the Ga-Mphahlele that nearly got the opening goal before the break as Nhlanhla Mgaga saw his pin-point shot calmly blocked by Sipho Chaine.
But with both teams appearing to be heading to the interval still goalless, Mabena who’s been Celtic’s knight in shining armour this season yet again delivered the goods for his side.
Tebogo Potsane got at the end of a defence-splitting pass in the engine room, forcing Chipezeze to commit. The Baroka No. 1 came off second best yet again and Mabena was able to open the scoring after being set up by Potsane and Andile Fikizolo.
Celtic started the second stanza with how they ended the first, using wing-backs to unlock Baroka’s defence. That, however, didn’t yield immediate results with Bakgakga’s defence standing their ground.
Phunya Selesele then opted to take shots from a distance. Fikizolo’s effort nearly paid off but that was acrobatically saved by Chipezeze who clumsily brought down Mabena inside his brought as he got up to clear the rebound.
Referee Victor Hlungwani pointed to the spot. Up stepped Victor Letsoalo to double Celtic’s lead. But soon thereafter, Letsoalo grabbed his brace, with a tap-in, after a quick interchange between him and Neo Maema.
This will be a boost for Celtic who are targeting a top-eight finish as they are ninth on the Premiership standings, while Baroka will now turn their focus on avoiding the drop as they are 13th and three points clear from the basement dwellers, Black Leopards.