CAPE TOWN – A second-half brace from Cape Town City winger Bradley Ralani inspired a 3-2 win over Bloemfontein Celtic in a thrilling Premiership encounter at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Free State side, who have now lost four league matches on the trot, took a 2-0 lead into the halftime break through goals from Ndumiso Mabena and Given Mashikinya, only to leave the Mother City empty-handed after Siphelele Mthembu reduced the deficit on the hour mark and then Ralani struck twice in two minutes.
City were off to the worse possible start when a weak backpass from Taariq Fielies in the fifth minute put goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh under pressure, and after a heavy touch, he was dispossessed by Mabena, who coolly slotted the ball into an empty net from 18-yards out.
Still reeling from the early setback, the Citizens found themselves 2-0 behind with only 17 minutes played after an intricate move from Celtic sliced open the home defence before Mabena played in former Cape Town City man Given Mashikinya, who rode a challenge before slotting past Leeuwenburgh from close range.
The Cape side responded positively and had chances to pull a goal back, but both Edmilson Dove and Ayanda Patosi were wayward with headed efforts before Lucky Baloyi wasted an opportunity to put the visiting club even further ahead when he ballooned a shot over the bar from a good position.
City continued to press for a way back into the game and were inches from scoring when Teko Modise's 37th-minute lob landed on the roof of the net before Fielies missed the target with a header three minutes before halftime.
It took 15 second-half minutes before the Cape team finally broke their duck, thanks to a superbly-taken glancing header from Mthembu, following a Ralani cross.
The home crowd sensed the change in the balance of the game and got fully behind City as they began to play on the front foot.
And after Shane Roberts released Ralani down the left wing in the 73rd minute, the latter spotted Celtic keeper Kabelo Dambe moving off his line and fired the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Ralani completed the stunning turn-around just two minutes later when he raced clear onto Matthew Rusike's through ball and calmly held his nerve while steering a low shot in at the far post.
There were some anxious moments for home coach Benni McCarthy as Phunya Sele Sele created chances for an equaliser, but it wasn't to be for Steve Komphela's team as Tumelo Mangweni and Menzi Masuku both missed headed efforts in the dying stages of the match.
African News Agency (ANA)