Celtic defender Lorenzo Gordinho rises high to win the ball above Given Mashikinya of AmaZulu FC on Wednesday night. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

DURBAN – The battle for AmaZulu to reassert themselves in the big league continues after they strolled to a 0-0 draw against Bloemfontein Celtic at the King Zwelithini Stadium in uMlazi on Wednesday night.

In a fairly open affair that produced limited goal-mouth excitement, the teams neutralised each other for a point apiece, leaving Celtic in ninth and AmaZulu in 13th place in the 16-team standings.

Former Kaizer Chiefs winger Ovidy Karuru linked well upfront with his ex-Amakhosi teammate Camaldine Abraw, who made his debut after he signed recently following a spell in Romania.

Karuru kicked off in the same form that he displayed in the weekend’s 2-0 win against SuperSport United, where he bagged a goal.

The Zimbabwean blazed a strike over in the opening minute, and was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty with referee Jelly Chavani near the action midway through the half.

This was a cool evening just about perfect for a kickabout, a far cry from the postponed first-round tie in early December when heavy rains created a swampy pitch.

Having not met since the 2014/15 season when AmaZulu got relegated, the foes didn’t take long to reacquaint themselves. 

Searching for a fifth win of the campaign, the home side made the early forays, while Celtic were content to pounce on the counter through the pace of Namibian international winger Deon Hotto as they attempted to avoid a hat trick of defeats. 

Abraw had another ex-Chiefs man lending support in attack. Coach Cavin Johnson kept faith in 40-year-old veteran Siyabonga Nomvethe, who drifted on the left flank.

The league’s all-time top scorer scored the other goal against SuperSport on Saturday, and has proved an inspirational figure in the change room as the club tries to re-establish itself in top-flight football following two seasons in the trenches of the First Division.

Despite enterprising play by the home unit, the Celtic backline, marshalled by Lorenzo Gordinho, stood firm in front of goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb, who at most had catching practice in a lukewarm encounter.

Celtic had their chances too, with Victor Letsoalo sliding close to a cross from Hotto that beat goalkeeper Siyabonga Mbatha in first-half optional time. 

After the interval, Vusi Shikweni got Mbatha to parry a shot as the teams maintained the attacking rhythm from the first period.

As the half wore on, the opportunities faded for the sizeable crowd that half-filled the venue, and the entertainment from Celtic’s travelling army almost rivalled the offering from the pitch.

Johnson introduced attackers Jabulani Ncobeni for Augustine Ramphele, playmaker Siyethemba Mnguni for Butholezwe Ncube and Sduduzo Dlamini for Nomvethe, all by the 60th minute, in a bid to spice things up somewhat.

The moves were appreciated by the home faithful, who found their voice to silence the singing from the opposite stand.

Menzi Masuku and Jacky Motshegwa made their way into the Celtic side to refresh their arsenal, and the changes sparked life into the game, but a little too late for a winner.

IOL Sport