Downs beat Celtic to close in on Chiefs

Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Wednesday evening to move to within four points of Absa Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

The Brazilians leapfrogged Orlando Pirates into second place on 41 points thanks to the result, which was secured by goals from Sibusiso Vilakazi and Hlompho Kekana. Phunya Sele Sele remain in 10th spot on 25 points.

Sundowns threatened from the early minutes, with Sibusiso Vilakazi seeing a snap shot turned away by goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane and also heading over the target after getting on the end of a cross by Gaston Sirino.

The threat of ‘Vila’ was fully realised in the 15th minute when he put the hosts ahead. Sirino played a beautifully disguised pass to put Themba Zwane in behind the Celtic defence and the midfielder saw his powerful shot parried by the ‘keeper – the loose ball fell straight to Vilakazi, who stabbed the ball into an empty net from close range.

Celtic had offered relatively little in attack but on the half-hour mark Tebogo Potsane poked a ball into space behind the defence and Ndumiso Mabena provided a fine low finish past the right hand of Denis Onyango to make it 1-1.

Sundowns nearly reclaimed the lead in the 38th minute when Zwane struck a low drive through a crowd of players, but Mabokgwane made an excellent reaction save at his near post. The teams were locked at a goal apiece at halftime.

Celtic started the second half strongly, but it was the Brazilians who reclaimed the ascendancy in the 55th minute through a classic long-range strike from Hlompho Kekana. The ‘Downs skipper found the top corner of the net with a shot direct from a free kick, giving Mabokgwane no chance whatsoever.

Phunya Sele Sele made an attacking double change midway through the second half, introducing Andile Fikizolo and Victor Letsoalo, while they were later forced into a final substitution when defender Wandisile Letlabika succumbed to injury and was replaced by Justice Chabalala.

Sundowns resorted to some ridiculous time-wasting antics to see out the game – including a trio of yellow cards for Sirino, Vilakazi and Kekana as they all took turns in delaying the taking of the same corner kick – but ultimately they were deserved winners on the night.

The teams will return to action in the Nedbank Cup this coming weekend, with Celtic at home to Maritzburg United on Saturday night and Sundowns hosting lower league Vaal University of Technology on Sunday.

Mamelodi Sundowns (1) 2 (Vilakazi 15’, Kekana 55’)

Bloemfontein Celtic (1) 1 (Mabena 30’)

Sundowns: Onyango, Lukhubeni, Nascimento, Madisha, Lebusa, Maboe (Lakay 70’), Kekana (Mabunda 85’), Jali, Zwane, Vilakazi, Sirino

Celtic: Mabokgwane, Tani, Letlabika (Chabalala 76’), Mahashe, Ngobeni, Masuku (Letsoalo 67’), Mashikinya, Baloyi, Potsane, Maema (Fikizolo 67’), Mabena