No mercy expected

2016-05-04 06:00
WAYDE JOOSTE, defender of Bloemfontein Celtic.         Photo: Teboho Setena

WAYDE JOOSTE, defender of Bloemfontein Celtic. Photo: Teboho Setena

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SERAME LETSOAKA, head coach of Bloemfontein Celtic, hopes his lads will be as ruthless against arch-rival Kaizer Chiefs in Wednesday’s (04/05) Premier Soccer League as they were against Ajax Cape Town. Phunya Sele Sele routed Ajax by 5-0 in a league fixture played at the Dr R.P. Molemela Stadium on Sunday (01/05), thus living up to its slogan, meaning piercing opponents in football terms. Celtic will clash with the wounded Chiefs in an adrenaline-pumping fixture at the FNB Stadium today.

Kick-off is at 19:30 and both teams’ coaches and former teammates, Letsoaka and the Chiefs’ Steve Komphela, face off again. In the first leg, Komphela walked home with honour after Amakhosi had narrowly beat Celtic by 1-0 in Bloemfontein. Letsoaka hopes his charges will rise to the occasion so that he can settle the score against his former teammate, whose side has lost their spark.

The history of the rivalry between Celtic and Chiefs favours the latter. In head-to-head stats, Celtic and Chiefs have met in 55 league matches since 1985. Amakhosi has 32 wins compared to 10 for Phunya Sele Sele, while 13 matches have been drawn. Celtic have won eight of their 26 home matches against Chiefs, suffering eight defeats in the process.

Today’s (04/05) fixture will be a different ball game, with the Chiefs looking to get revenge on Celtic after their 3-1 demolition by Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday (30/04). On the other hand, Phunya Sele Sele will look to continue their steady rise to a safe position on the log, while a top eight spot is not, in fact, guaranteed. If unable to secure a maximum of three points against Chiefs, a draw will still be valuable for Letsoaka and such a result will see his team go five matches unbeaten.

Celtic will possibly have to face Amakhosi without their instrumental defender, Bevan Fransman, who sustained an injury against Ajax.

Letsoaka hopes his charges will defend well against Amakhosi.

“Defensively, we are one of the top five teams in the league, with a good record,” said Letsoaka.

Celtic has been relying on the likes of Wayde Jooste to stabilise their defense.

The Mangaung giants’ 5-0 rout of Ajax not only inspired them, but was also another big relief from the immense pressure to completely avoid the dreaded relegation. The result meant that Celtic collected four valuable points in just four days, after sharing the spoils when they played to a goalless draw against relegation-bound Jomo Cosmos. The emphatic win against Ajax will be the biggest for Celtic this season, while last season they did the same against the 2015-’16 champions-elect Mamelodi Sundowns, when they thrashed them by 5-1 in December in 2015.

The steady improvement in converting goal-scoring opportunities is what Letsoaka has been patiently waiting for since taking over the reins. The former Ea Lla Koto stalwart has since blamed the team’s lacklustre results on the players’ inability to convert scoring chances and impose themselves on their opponents.

Besides Wednesday’s (04/05) fixture, Phunya Sele Sele have two remaining must-win fixtures against Platinum Stars away on 11 May, with the last of the season at home against Polokwane City on 21 May in Bloemfontein.

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