Highlands back into top half after downing Celtic

Highlands Park have moved back into the top half of the Absa Premiership table after downing Bloemfontein Celtic 2-0 at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The result, secured by a brace from Peter Shalulile, sees the Lions of the North climb to seventh spot, while Phunya Sele Sele occupy 10th position.

Highlands were the more lively team from the opening minutes, with Peter Shalulile, Sello Motsepe and Lindokuhle Mbatha all looking dangerous in attack.

The hosts duly claimed the lead in the 20th minute, with Mbatha teeing up Shalulile from the right flank to score his first league goal since the turn of the year and put the Lions of the North in control of the game.

Celtic enjoyed some more possession from the half-hour mark onward, but they were unable to put attackers such as Menzi Masuku and Ndumiso Mabena into dangerous positions.

In fact, Highlands almost claimed a second goal in the 37th minute, with Mothobi Mvala given a fine sight of goal only for Jackson Mabokgwane to make a solid save to keep his side within touching distance.

The halftime interval saw Highlands deservedly 1-0 ahead, having been the more proactive and efficient team in attack, while their defence was superbly-organised and disciplined.

Phunya Sele Sele made a double change at the start of the second half, introducing Lucky Baloyi and Maloisane Ramasingong off the bench, though Highlands continued to look the better team in the early minutes after the restart.

In fact the hosts doubled their advantage in the 55th minute: Mabokgwane made an error in judgement in trying to come out and meet a ball, allowing Shalulile to get around him and tuck a shot home for 2-0.

The Lions of the North effectively shut up shot after the second goal, being happy to sit deep and invite Celtic to try and break them down – while also offering the chance for Shalulile and Mbatha to prosper through their speed on the counter attack.

There were no further major incidents at either end of the pitch, allowing the hosts to claim a deserved 2-0 win which boosts their hope of finishing in the top eight for a second successive season.

The teams will both return to Premiership action this coming Wednesday, February 19: Highlands will be away to Bidvest Wits and Celtic will travel to face Mamelodi Sundowns.

Highlands Park (1) 2 (Shalulile 20’ 55’)

Bloemfontein Celtic 0

Highlands: Heugh, Mokoena, Mbunjana (Rae 46’), Fransman, Banda, Mzava, Nyatama (Nyembe 70’), Mvala, Shalulile, Mbatha, Motsepe

Celtic: Mabokgwane, Letlabika, Rikhotso (Baloyi 46’), De Jongh (Ramasimong 46’), Chabalala, Masuku (Letsoalo 69’), Mashikinya, Ngobeni, Luthuli, Maema, Mabena