LONDON – The Bloemfontein Celtic reserve team suffered a 2-1 defeat to West Ham United reserves in the opening match of their London tour at Chadwell Heath on Monday afternoon.
Celtic are currently touring the UK as part of their reward for winning this season’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge.
The South Africans, who arrived in the English capital on Thursday, have been hard at work as they got some intense training sessions from the Hammers’ Academy coach Paul Heffer.
Those invaluable lessons were to prepare the South Africans for this gruelling encounter and beyond.
And indeed, Phunya Sele Sele hit top gear from the outset on Monday, as Lunga Zikade fired home from close range.
The match started to open up as Celtic were looking to extend their lead, while the home team had to throw the kitchen sink at the former to get back into the game.
The Hammers got their groove back as they pressed their visitors in their own half.
Their anchor Forson was churning all the diagonal passes that stretched Phunya Sele Sele’s defence.
And that was working like a charm as Ngakia had the perfect opportunity to restore parity for the home side from the edge of the penalty-box, only for goalkeeper Sipho Chaine to pull off a terrific save.
The English team never dropped their heads as they continued to search for an equaliser, but Chaine had to come to his team’s rescue once again – this time denying a blank-point shot from Longelo.
The South Africans went to the interval with a narrow advantage, but it could have been more if goalkeeper Trott hadn’t bailed out his team at the stroke of halftime following a half-volley from Moses Mokwena.
Celtic’s form in the second stanza dropped, allowing the hosts an enormous amount of space to play their carpet football.
The Hammers’ wing-backs also joined up in the play, as they stretched the visitors. And, it was no surprise that right wing-back Ngakia shielded his marker at the edge of the penalty area, before teeing up Longelo, who easily tapped past Chaine.
And that was the wake-up call that the hosts needed, as they gained the lead soon thereafter.
The second goal came via Celtic’s sloppy defending, as they conceded a penalty. Longelo took the responsibility for his side and sent a flying Chaine the wrong way.
Undoubtedly not the perfect start for Celtic on their tour, but they’ll be banking on the lessons learnt to give them an edge over Wednesday’s opposition Fulham.@Mihlalibaleka