Bloemfontein Celtic avoided an upset in the Nedbank Cup as they defeated National First Division side Richards Bay 3-1 at Dr Molemela Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Goals from Mpho Maruping, Neo Maema and Kabelo Dlamini secured a place in the competition’s quarterfinals for Phunya Sele Sele.
Celtic enjoyed all the early running in the match and should have gone ahead in the fifth minute when Kabelo Dlamini provided a superb cross from the left to find Ali Abondo at the far post, but he was denied by a great save from Xolani Ngcobo.
The Bay goalkeeper was in key action again on 37 minutes, coming far off his line to make a vital interception as Victor Letsoalo threatened to run in behind the defence.
Yet the gloves-man was helpless in the 40th minute, as some poor defending from his team at a free kick allowed Celtic midfielder Mpho Maruping to scramble home a scrappy goal from close range and put the hosts 1-0 up.
It should have been 2-0 just a minute later when Dlamini was presented with a clear sight of goal in the middle of the penalty area, but he blasted his effort high and wide when a little more composure was called for.
Phunya Sele Sele continued to look for a second goal through the second half, but a combination of poor finishing and some fine goalkeeping from Ngcobo kept the score at 1-0 to the hosts.
The KwaZulu-Natal side grew in confidence as the game wore on, even calling Celtic ‘keeper Kabelo Dambe into a couple of notable saves, though they too were not quite sharp enough in attack to take full advantage when they got into the final third.
Celtic substitute Jacky Motshegwa should have killed off the game in the 80th minute when presented with a clear chance in the penalty area, but he sent his effort onto the crossbar to keep Bay in with a shot of sending the game to extra time.
Yet that hope was extinguished in great style by two late goals, as Neo Maema sent a long-range effort into the top corner of the net on 86 minutes and Dlamini claimed a well-deserved goal in the 90th to secure victory for the team in green and white.
Bay pulled one back in injury time through Thabiso Nkoana, but it proved no more than a consolation for the second-tier team.
Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 3 (Maruping 40’, Maema 86’, Dlamini 90’)
Richards Bay (0) 1 (Nkoana 90+2’)
Celtic: Dambe, Molekwane, Ndengane, Lubisi, Pfumbidzai, Jembula (Motshegwa 72’), Mashikinya (Phalane 78’), Maruping, Dlamini, Abondo (Maema 59’), Letsoalo
Bay: Ngcobo, Mtebule, Ralebakeng, Ngcobo N, Mthethwa, Abubakar, Shozi (Mensah 70’), Madondo, Roelf, Ntuli (Nkoana 80’), Muishond (Cele 74’).