CAPE TOWN – The curse of a cup final came back to haunt Cape Town City again as they lost 1-0 to a lively, plucky Bloemfontein Celtic at the Athlone Stadium on Tuesday night.
Last year, after winning the Telkom Knockout Cup, City’s next outing was a 4-0 defeat to Platinum Stars.
On Tuesday night, after defeat in the MTN8 final at the weekend, the Cape side came unstuck against a determined Celtic.
City tried hard, but the visitors from Bloemfontein were very difficult to break down. Celtic worked hard, they were organised and in the end, they probably deserved the three points for their committed efforts.
As for City, as expected, especially after the gruelling, energy-sapping defeat to SuperSport United in the MTN8 final in Durban at the weekend, coach Benni McCarthy rang the changes to the starting team.
In came goalkeeper Sage Stephens, defenders Tshepo Gumede, Edmilson and Vincent Kobola, and midfielders Craig Martin and Ayanda Patosi.
There were also starts for Austrian Roland Putsche and Nigerian Victor Obinna, both of whom had come off the bench in the cup final.
Perhaps, because of this, the Cape side struggled to get any fluency to their game.
All in all, there weren’t all that many scoring opportunities in a tight, cagey encounter.
Celtic were all over City in the opening 15 minutes, with Lucky Baloyi pulling the strings in midfield, and forwards Ndumiso Mabena and Roggert Nyundu causing havoc in the the Cape side’s defence.
Nyundu drilled a stinging shot just wide and Mabena was denied a goal by a brilliant, point-blank save from Stephens.
Slowly but surely, though, City started to settle and get back into the game. They finally grabbed hold of the ball, and were unlucky not to take the lead when Patosi fired in a volley, which Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb did well to save.
The Bloemfontein team, though, remained dangerous at the other end, and Stephens again had to come to his team’s rescue to keep out a free-kick from Deon Hotto.
The game could have gone any way as both teams plugged away for the winning goal, and it was Celtic who got the break when Kabelo Mahlasela netted in the 78th minute.
City threw everything into the attack in search of an equaliser in the closing stages, but Celtic stood firm to grab the victory.
So, it was disappointing result for City, especially coming so soon after the cup final loss, but if there is to be a positive, they can reflect on the continued blossoming of rookie Martin.
Just a few months ago, the winger was playing amateur football – now he’s mixing it with the best footballers in the country.
Martin produced another promising performance on Tuesday night, with his blinding speed creating huge problems for the Celtic defence.
In addition, his appetite for work both in attack and defence was exemplary, and he will certainly be an ace up the sleeve of McCarthy as the season progresses.