Bloemfontein Celtic avoided an upset in the Nedbank Cup to defeat National First Division side Richards Bay 3-1 at the Dr Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein yesterday.
Goals from Mpho Maruping, Neo Maema and Kabelo Dlamini secured them a place in the competition’s quarterfinals.
Celtic enjoyed all the early running in the match and a free kick allowed midfielder Maruping to scramble home a scrappy goal from close range and put them 1-0 up.
It should have been 2-0 just a minute later when Dlamini was presented with a clear sight of goal in the middle of the penalty area, but he blasted his effort high and wide when a little more composure was called for.
The KwaZulu-Natal side grew in confidence as the game wore on, even calling Celtic keeper Kabelo Dambe into a couple of notable saves, though they too were not sharp enough in attack to take full advantage when they got into the final third.
Maema sent a long-range effort into the top corner of the net on 86 minutes and Dlamini claimed a well-deserved goal in the 90th to secure victory for the team in green and white.
Bay pulled one back in injury time through Thabiso Nkoana, but it proved no more than a consolation for the secondtier team.
Meanwhile, 10-man Maritzburg United claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over provincial rivals Royal Eagles at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban yesterday to reach the last eight of the Nedbank Cup.
In a match which was affected by inclement weather, the Team of Choice shrugged off a numerical disadvantage to overcome their National First Division opponents, thanks to goals from Deolin Mekoa and Siyanda Xulu.
Maritzburg looked the more fluent and confident team from early on. On the cusp of half time, the Team of Choice were reduced to 10 men when defender Bevan Fransman received his second yellow card for a reckless challenge and was sent off.
Yet rather than panic, Maritzburg responded by going ahead: Siphesihle Ndlovu showed some great skill in the penalty area before laying on an easy chance for Mekoa to score from close range in the third minute of added time.
The hosts were given a lifeline with just under 20 minutes of regulation time to play, as Siyanda Xulu was guilty of a clumsy foul and conceded a penalty.
Veteran Mame Niang converted the spot kick to make it 1-1 in the 72nd minute.
The match was suspended with about eight minutes of regulation time remaining due to inclement weather.
Upon resumption – the better part of an hour after going off – Maritzburg reclaimed the lead in the 89th minute when Xulu scored with a glancing header from a corner kick.
This was enough for United to advance into the last eight. They will learn who their next opponent is in Thursday’s quarterfinal draw.