BLOEMFONTEIN – Top of the table, unbeaten in three matches and yet to concede a goal! You ordinarily would not associate that sentence with Bloemfontein Celtic.
Definitely not given the ownership upheavals that beset the club ahead of the season and the non-payment of salaries to players. Add to that the fact their coach is a man who was prematurely forced out of his previous job following a pretty pathetic three seasons’ spell and not even Hollywood would have scripted such a beginning for Phunya Sele Sele.
Yet such can be the reaction to adversity that a team no one gave a chance is setting the pace early on in the 2018/19 Absa Premiership season.
This win yesterday was further proof of Celtic’s ability to withstand pressure, Steve Komphela’s team literally playing the entire second half on the backfoot as Pirates looked to restore parity.
But they held on alright, Patrick Tignyemb still having to scoop the ball from inside his own net since the start of the new campaign.
He could have in injury time, but Lantshane Phalane was well-positioned to clear the ball off the line after Happy Jele had headed a corner kick past the Cameroonian goalkeeper towards the goal.
Most impressive perhaps for Celtic was their ability to maintain their shape in the face of an incredibly relentless onslaught by the Buccaneers in the second half.
Granted Komphela help shore things up by introducing the defensive-minded Lucky Baloyi and Ryan de Jong, but that should not be allowed to take away from the fact that Alfred Ndengane and Lorenzho Gordinho were uncompromising in the heart of defence.
Ndengane in particular did well to keep a close watch on Thamsanqa Gabuza and was given the Man of the Match award although the Bucs centre forward had a few free headers that he should have used better.
Their great work defensively notwithstanding, Celtic should be praised for having scored in a first half that saw them being able to take the game to Pirates.
And Tebogo Potsane was once again impressive as he fearlessly attacked the opposition and was unlucky not to get a penalty on 13 minutes when he was fell inside the box.
Five minutes later Celtic scored what turned out to be the game’s only goal in spectacular fashion. Ndengane headed a corner kick against the crossbar and Bongani Sam slotted home with a fantastic overhead kick as Siyabonga Mpontshane came out to try clear the danger.
The goal seemed to shake Pirates out of their slumber as they attacked with much more intent and just three minutes later Gabuza should have equalised but instead he headed over following a great free kick curled into the box by Vincent Pule.
He also had another chance on 31 minutes, but he shot the ball wide with his outstretched leg following a great pass from the far side.
Tignyemb also did well to keep Pirates at bay as he bravely left his line to clear a number of dangerous high balls into the box.
Yet such was the intensity with which Pirates approached the second half that it appeared the equaliser was only a matter of time in coming.
This Celtic side though knows just how to fight against the odds and they held on for dear life until the end to remain the only side yet to concede a goal and drop points.
Too early in the season to get carried away of course, but they have a sober-minded coach who will know exactly how to handle this early boon.
Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 1
Bogani Sam 18
Orlando Pirates 0