Thabo Maphakisa of Free State Stars and Deon Hotto of Bloemfontein Celtic battle for possession at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Saturday. Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

BETHLEHEM – Free State Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic shared the spoils in an entertaining Free State derby, as they drew 1-1 in an Absa Premiership match at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Saturday evening.

The result was a setback for both sides, with high-riding Stars looking for a top-four position finish on the table, while Celtic will be eyeing a spot among the top eight clubs by the end of the league campaign.

After a goalless first 45 minutes, Stars broke the deadlock in the 49th minute when after some good build-up play, midfielder Goodman Dlamini fired into the far corner of the visitors’ net just wide of goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb.

The lead did not last long, with Celtic back on level terms five minutes later when a shot on goal from Sthembiso Dlamini was kept out by Stars goalkeeper Badra Sanare, but striker Victor Letsoalo was on hand to fire home the equaliser.

This was Letsoalo’s third goal against Stars this season, having scored twice in his team’s 3-0 win over Phunya Sele Sele in first-round league action in December.

Stars had the better of the chances in the first half, with striker Siphelele Mthembu having squandered a superb opportunity early on with only the goalkeeper to beat.

His effort from close-range rifled into the body of Celtic No 1 Tignyemb rather than into the back of the net.

This was the second time in as many matches that Stars have taken the lead and had to end with a 1-1 draw, following their stalemate in Durban against Golden Arrows.

Stars move to 39 points from 27 games, equal on points with fourth-placed Kaizer Chiefs, but having played one match more.

Their next league outing will see them travel to take on the Amakhosi next Saturday.

Celtic will hold seventh spot overnight as they sit on 34 points from 27 games, and will begin planning for their next league fixture at home to Chippa United on April 24.

African News Agency (ANA)