HIGH AND DRY: Moeneeb Josephs lets in a penalty during the Telkom Knockout quarterfinal against Bloemfontein Celtic. Picture: Gallo Images
Bloemfontein Celtic produced one of the greatest comebacks in local knockout football to advance to the last four of the Telkom Knockout Cup when they sent defending champions Orlando Pirates packing at the Free State Stadium yesterday.
Pirates looked in control until Celtic scored two late goals to send the game to penalties and booked their first semifinal spot since 2006.
A stunning free-kick by winger Daine Klate in the 23rd minute, a well orchestrated goal by midfield livewire Oupa Manyisa in the 50th minute and a great header from defender Thabo Matlaba seven minutes later seemingly set Pirates on their way to defending their title.
But a second-half resurgence saw Siwelele come from nowhere to change the complexion of the game with goals from Lennox Bacela in the 53rd minute, a bicycle kick by Ruzaigh Gamildien in the 87th minute and an equaliser by Joel Mogorosi a minute later left Bucs reeling.
Celtic’s goals from the spot were scored by Lennox Bacela Lerato Manzini, Regie Motshegwa, Mogorosi and Dominic Isaacs, while Oupa Manyisa couldn’t follow in the footsteps of Andile Jali, Siyabonga Sangweni and Patrick Phungwayo with the sole aim of banishing the four-year demon of failing to beat Celtic in Bloemfontein.
Bucs started the game purposefully with their system of 4-4-1-1 that allowed Sifiso Myeni and Klate to cause havoc on the wings.
Klate showed that the extra training sessions he has been putting in proved fruitful when he beat goalkeeper Amour Patrick Tignyemb with a masterstroke of a free-kick to set the Bucs ship sailing.
Cheered by their ever-singing fans, Celtic’s only chance came when skipper Thabo Nthethe failed to capitalise when Pirates’ defence fell asleep in the 44th minute.
Heading to the break confident that Celtic would fall this time around, Pirates were resilient in their approach.
However, Celtic received a reprieve when Bacela scored from a spot kick against the run of play.
A moment of panic followed for Bucs fans when Gamildien scored in the 87th minute and when Mogorosi took the match to penalties when he scored the equaliser at the death.