Downs leap to MTN8 semifinal

2011-08-06 19:24

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neesken had a dream start as the head coach, when his side beat Bloemfontein Celtic in the MTN8 quarterfinal yesterday.

The game was played on a ­shockingly bad pitch.

Both sides approached the match cautiously but surging for an early goal.

This saw Celtic attack with three players – Moses Spandeel, Lethola Mofokeng and Lennox ­Bacela.

Sundowns, on the other hand, used wingers Elias Pelembe and Franklin Cale, while Zimbabwean Nyasha ­Mushekwi who was a loner up front, kept the Celtic defence led by Erick Mathoho, on their feet.

In the 18th minute Celtic’s ­Hlompho ­Kekana’s shot from 25 ­metres went off target while, on the other end, a good cross from ­Pelembe went begging with no ’Downs player inside the box.

As the first-half edged towards the end, players from both sides went in with flying tackles, and one resulted in Sundowns’ Doctor ­Mapuru being booked for a foul on Prince Hlela.

Teko Modise also fell victim to a harsh tackle from Kekana just when referee Victor Gomes was about to blow for recess, but the perpetrator was fortunate to go unpunished.

Sundowns’ goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands was forced to make the save of the match in the 23rd minute when Mofokeng fired in a powerful shot after some neat inter-play.

Both sides went into half-time with the score sheet blank.

Neeskens made three substitutions in the second half which saw the pendulum swing in ’Downs favour.

Katlego Mphela replaced Mushekwi while Siyanda Xulu was brought in for Wandisile Letlabika and then ­Mabhuti Khenyeza came in for ­Cale in the 76th minute.

The introduction of Mphela and Khenyeza kept Celtic defenders busy.

Celtic’s defensive breakdown late in the second stanza led to a goal for Sundowns in the 79th minute through Khenyeza when he headed home a well-taken Pelembe ­corner-kick.

Celtic coach Clinton Larsen ­replaced Lethola early in the second half with Thokozani Mshengu.

The home side had the best chance minutes later when Mphela’s header was saved by goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb.

In a desperate attempt to force an equaliser, Celtic took out Spandeel for Ruzaigh Gamildiem and Cecil Orsen came on for a tired Danny Venter.

However, these changes made no ­difference as the game ended in ­favour of the home team – much to the delight of the partisan fans.

Before this encounter, Celtic had failed to win any of the last ten league meetings between the sides, which ended in six wins for Downs and four draws.

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