BLOEMFONTEIN Celtic provided an amazing comeback which saw them eliminate defending Telkom Knockout champions Orlando Pirates in a quarterfinal at Free State Stadium on Sunday.
The thrilling match ended 3-3 after extra time and Phunya Sele Sele triumphed 5-3 on penalties to join SuperSport United, Mamelodi Sundowns and Free State Stars in Monday’s semifinal draw.
Bucs will wonder how they relinquished their grip on a game they seemed to have complete control of, as goals from Daine Klate, Oupa Manyisa and Thabo Matlaba had left them 3-1 up.
However, late strikes from Ruzaigh Gamildien and Joel Mogorosi – added to an earlier penalty from Lennox Bacela – saw Phunya Sele Sele come back from the dead to make it 3-3 and send the game to extra time and penalties.
Pirates were dealt an early injury blow when defender Rooi Mahamutsa hurt his ankle after landing from an aerial challenge, resulting in his withdrawal in the 14th minute. Veteran defender Lucky Lekgwathi replaced him.
There were few chances created in the first half, though on 23 minutes Bucs took the lead through a superb goal from Daine Klate. The winger scored directly from a free kick with a curling shot into the top corner that had the beating of goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb.
On 40 minutes the visitors almost doubled their advantage, with midfielder Andile Jali exchanging passes with Collins Mbesuma before firing a left-footed shot just wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Celtic’s only sniff at goal in the first half arrived in the 44th minute when impressive right-back Limbikani Mzava whipped a dangerous cross to the far post that was just beyond the reach of Thabo Nthethe.
The second half got off to a flying start, with three goals in the first 12 minutes after the break. Pirates made it 2-0 on 51 minutes when Oupa Manyisa chested down a cross from Klate before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.
Six minutes later the home side reduced the deficit to 2-1 when Lennox Bacela converted a penalty. The striker earned the spot kick himself, being tripped up by Siyabonga Sangweni just inside the 18-yard area.
Bucs restored their two goal lead in the 57th minute through a first goal for the club from Thabo Matlaba. The full-back unleashed a swerving long-range shot that wrong-footed Tignyemb before crashing into the back of the net.
Celtic almost pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute when Ruzaigh Gamildien fired a shot on target from a free kick, but Moeneeb Josephs made an excellent save. Two minutes later Lerato Manzini sent a glancing header just wide as the hosts continued to try and force their way back into the game.
Pirates substitute Ndumiso Mabena had a chance to kill off the hosts in the 86th minute when he stole the ball off Dominic Isaacs and had only the ‘keeper to beat, but the young striker completely fluffed the chance in a moment that came back to haunt the Soweto giants.
Celtic finally made it 3-2 in the 90th minute when Gamildien powered home a fine headed goal from a left-wing cross, and in a dramatic ending substitute Joel Mogorosi made it 3-3 five minutes into injury time and sent the game to an extra half hour with a magnificent overhead kick after a goal-mouth scramble.
Extra time was prosaic compared to the drama before it, and the tired teams eventually settled for a penalty shootout. Celtic converted all five of their kicks, while Pirates’ Oupa Manyisa was the unlucky player to fail with his attempt, handing the Bloemfontein side a 5-3 victory.
Bloemfontein Celtic (0) (3) 3 (Bacela 55’ pen, Gamildien 90’, Mogorosi 90+5’)
Orlando Pirates (1) (3) 3 (Klate 23’, Manyisa 51’, Matlaba 57’)
After extra time; Celtic won 5-3 on penalties
Celtic: Tignyemb, Mzava, Isaacs, Nthethe, Mahoa, Nyanda (Mogorosi 60’), Madubanya (Motshegwa 68’), Arwuah, Lakay (Manzini 57’), Gamildien, Bacela
Pirates: Josephs, Matlaba, Mahamutsa (Lekgwathi 14’), Sangweni, Phungwayo, Myeni, Masalesa, Manyisa, Jali, Klate (Segolela 73’), Mbesuma (Mabena 70’)
Penalty sequence: (Celtic shot first) Bacela scores 1-0, Jali scores 1-1; Manzini scores 2-1, Manyisa misses 2-1; Motshegwa scores 3-1, Sangweni scores 3-2; Mogorosi scores 4-2, Phungwayo scores 4-3; Isaacs scores 5-3. Celtic win 5-3 on penalties.-Backpage TXT