Maritzburg United claimed their first win of the 2020-21 DStv Premiership, defeating Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday evening thanks to a brace from returning striker Thabiso Kutumela.
The result not only sees the Team of Choice break a 14-game winless streak in the top-flight league which stretches back to last season, it also allows them to rise from last spot on the standings on goals scored, with Black Leopards now occupying the basement. As for Phunya Sele Sele, they drop to 11th place after a fourth loss of the league campaign.
Maritzburg made the early running in the game and had two efforts inside the opening six minutes from Tebogo Tlolane, the first of which flashed over the target before the second was easily saved by Celtic goalkeeper Sipho Chaine.
The Team of Choice kept probing in attack and they were rewarded in the 26th minute: Keagan Buchanan played a perfectly-weighted pass from midfield and Kutumela beat the advancing Chaine to the ball before providing a crisp finish from a tight angle to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes before the end of regulation time in the first half, Maritzburg were awarded a controversial penalty for a trip from Ryan De Jongh on Daylon Claasen – the foul appeared to happen just outside the 18-yard area.
Kutumela clinically fired the ball into the bottom right corner of Chaine’s net from the spot to make it 2-0 in favour of the KwaZulu-Natal hosts in the 37th minute – a lead they would hold up to halftime.
Celtic made a change at the start of the second stanza, introducing Shadrack Kobedi in place of Tebogo Potsane, while a second substitution a short while before the hour mark saw attacker Motebang Sera thrown on by coach John Maduka.
Phunya Sele Sele certainly enjoyed more of the ball in the second half, but United goalkeeper Jethren Barr was not called into significant action – a credit to the defence in front of him and also an indictment of the visitors’ lack of penetration.
Celtic did finally get back into the game in the 83rd minute, with Victor Letsoalo providing an acrobatic, volleyed finish from close range to make it 2-1. The Celtic striker finished from what would have been an offside position had the ball not come to him off the head of Maritzburg player.
The Bloemfontein side looked to salvage a draw from the match in the dying minutes, but Maritzburg held their nerve to pick up a first three-pointer of the season and they will hope this result proves a turning point.
Celtic will be in CAF Confederation Cup action in midweek when they head to Nigeria looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Rivers United, while United’s next match is a DStv Premiership clash at Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, January 9.
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