The Sunday Mail
THERE was no joy for Warriors goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze yesterday, as the return of professional football in South Africa saw Bloemfontein Celtic securing a place in the Nedbank Cup final for the first time in 35 years at his team’s expense.
Chipezeze was the only Zimbabwean in action in the first of the semi-final double-header at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg.
The other game was a late kick-off pitting Mamelodi Sundowns against Terrence Dzukamanja and McClive Phiri’s Bidvest Wits.
The Warriors Number One, who is now the Baroka captain, had hoped to inspire his team to Nedbank Cup success and, with it, a ticket to the CAF Confederation Cup.
But all those hopes were dashed as Ronald Pfumbidzai’s Celtic prevailed, albeit with the Warriors left-back missing in action, as he holed up in Zimbabwe owing the current travel restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Phunya Sele Sele defeated 10-man Baroka, courtesy of goals from Ndumiso Mabena and a Victor Letsoalo brace — to advance into their first final in this competition since 1985, when they beat African Wanderers to win what was then known as the Mainstay Cup.
With this being the first match in 146 days, both teams were unsurprisingly rusty and struggled to find their attacking rhythm, though the game was nonetheless an engrossing one.
Celtic made the early running, looking dangerous down the right flank through Tebogo Potsane and Mpusana Tani.
The first clear chance saw Mabena stab a shot wide of the near post within the opening 10 minutes.
The Bloemfontein side also suffered the first injury casualty, with right-back Tani pulling up with a hamstring issue within the opening quarter. He was replaced by the attacker Andile Fikizolo on 22 minutes.
Just past the half-hour mark, Baroka were reduced to 10 men when Ananias Gebhardt was deservedly shown a straight red card for a clumsy, studs-up lunge to the ankle of Lucky Baloyi, leaving the “hosts” with a numerical disadvantage.
Despite this, Bakgaga made a great chance late in the first half, as a 41st minute attack ended with Celtic goalkeeper Sipho Chaine making a fine save to deny Nhlanhla Mgaga.
The match looked set to be goalless at the interval, but on the cusp of halftime Celtic broke the deadlock.
Potsane did well to draw goalkeeper Chipezeze off his line and feed Fikizolo, who in turn teed up Mabena — the striker hit a low, left-footed effort through a crowd of players to find the back of the net and see Phunya Sele Sele 1-0 up at the break.
Baroka made a double change at the start of the second stanza — introducing Matome Kgoetyane and Sbonelo Ngubane off the bench — and put together some decent attacking moves despite being a man down, including a stinging drive to warm the palms of Chaine just past the hour mark.
Celtic ended the game as a contest seven minutes from the end of regulation time, with substitute Letsoalo tucking home a penalty to make it 2-0.
The spot kick was cleverly earned by Mabena, who drew a foul off Chipezeze after the goalkeeper had parried away a goal-bound shot.
Letsoalo added his second deep in injury time to put a cherry on top for Phunya Sele Sele, tucking home from close range after Chipezeze did well to keep out an initial effort from Neo Maema.
Celtic will face either Mamelodi Sundowns or Bidvest Wits in the Nedbank Cup final, scheduled on September 8. — Super Sport/ Sports Reporter.
Baroka: Chipezeze, Shozi, Farmer, Sampson, Kambala (Kgoetyane 46’ [Mbulu 74’]), Gebhardt, Makgopa, Mosele, Mgaga (Nguse 81’), Patjie, Phiri (Ngubane 46’)
Bloemfontein Celtic: Chaine, Tani (Fikizolo 22’), Letlabika, Chabalala, Mahashe, Ngobeni, Baloyi, Phalane, Masuku (Maema 58’), Potsane (Letsoalo 58’), Mabena