Defending MTN8 champions Kaizer Chiefs are pitted against Bloemfontein Celtic in the semi-finals of this year’s competition. Steve Komphela’s troops will travel to the Free State Stadium for the first leg on Saturday, before hosting Phunya Sele Sele at the FNB Stadium on the 29th. The other semi-final will be contested between Bidvest Wits and Ajax Cape Town. AmaKhosi booked their spot in the last four by beating Maritzburg United 5-3 in the quarter-finals last Wednesday, while Clinton Larsen’s charges stunned Mamelodi Sundowns 4-2 on penalties to progress.
To Win (90mins)
Bloemfontein Celtic 28/10
Kaizer Chiefs 1/1
Bloemfontein Celtic managed a great feat by holding Sundowns to a goalless draw in regular time and then coming from behind in extra-time to push the match into a penalty shootout, where they ousted the 2013 MTN8 champions. Musa Bilankulu was the man who cancelled out new Sundowns signing Fiston Abdul Razak’s 105th minute opener at Lucas Moripe Stadium, rising for a set-piece into the box to head home just three minutes from the end of extra-time. Phunya Sele Sele are, however, coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss away to Polokwane City in their ABSA Premiership opener on Saturday. Celtic took the lead in the 70th minute only to concede two goals in the next eight minutes which saw them leave Polokwane empty handed. The hosts took the lead early in the encounter but Thapelo Morena drew Celtic level by half-time. The visitors went on to take the lead through Lerato Lamola clinically finishing a one-on-one. With just over fifteen minutes remaining in the contest it appeared that Larsen’s men were headed for the win, but the goal-scoring exploits for which the Polokwane side became known last season were again on show with two more goals from the home side to wrestle the result in their favour.
The pressure is only rising for Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela as he searches for some consistency with last season’s league champions. After scoring five goals in their MTN8 quarter-final against Maritzburg United last week, AmaKhosi were held to a 0-0 draw in their league opener away to a ten-man Chippa United on Sunday. Chiefs endured a mixed pre-season, losing in the King’s Cup and Carling Black Label Cup, although they managed to bounce back in the MTN8 with a 5-3 extra-time win over Maritzburg. However, the Glamour Boys again looked off the boil against the Chilli Boys, despite playing the second-half in Nelson Mandela Bay with the numerical advantage, and Komphela needs to find a better balance if Chiefs are to defend their MTN8 and ABSA Premiership titles.
Chippa midfielder Joseph Molangoane was an accident waiting to happen with his robust approach in the middle of the park earning him two yellow cards with just 38 minutes on the clock. Chiefs, who had won all four previous matches against Chippa, would have then expected a comfortable win. But the closest the Soweto outfit came to a goal was a shot from winger Siphiwe Tshabalala soon after halftime that rebounded off the crossbar. Chippa even carved out some chances of their own with Chiefs and South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune sticking out his left foot to block a close-range header. Chiefs will be looking to get back to their best, which they exhibited in their win over Maritzburg in the quarter-finals last week. The KwaZulu-Natal side took a shocking 2-0 lead after the first 45 minutes but the second half was a completely different story. Chiefs hit back almost immediately through George Lebese and just when coach Mandla Ncikazi’s men were trying to gather their thoughts, the Glamour Boys struck again thanks to Bernard Parker. Momentum took a major swing twenty minutes into the second stanza as Lebese pounced on a Siphiwe Tshabalala rebound shot to tap in his side’s third and his second goal of the night. Just when Chiefs fans thought that all was done and dusted within ninety minutes, Siyanda Xulu, who was making his official debut for AmaKhosi, headed the ball into the back of his own net to bring Maritzburg right back into the game. But Xulu rocked up in the 114th minute of extra-time to make amends and execute a superb bicycle kick to give the defending champions a 4-3 advantage with only a few minutes remaining. Rookie Hendrick Ekstein then provided the icing on the cake with a goal in the last minute of extra-time to secure the 5-3 victory for AmaKhosi and see them through to the semi-finals.
Chiefs’ defence looks to be finally taking shape with the return of Khune, Eric Mathoho and Sibonisio Gaxa to the starting line-up against Chippa. Komphela has downplayed suggestions that Khune has reclaimed his position as the first choice goalkeeper, saying his selection was merely a way of finding a solution to AmaKhosi’s early defensive woes. But despite Komphela’s diplomatic comments, after Khune’s decent performance on the weekend, it is hard to see him being dropped back to the bench again anytime soon.
VERDICT: Kaizer Chiefs 1/1
Kaizer Chiefs have a good record in this fixture and are unbeaten against Bloemfontein Celtic in the last thirteen meetings, winning seven of those encounters. Looking at more recent meetings AmaKhosi have won four of the last six matches against Celtic. The overall record since Celtic’s promotion back to the top flight in the 2003/04 season shows even more domination with only two wins for the Free State club in 24 meetings, with the Soweto giants racking up fourteen victories. Komphela has overseen four matches in charge of Chiefs, failing to win once in normal time. Celtic is a club Komphela knows well through local rivalry during his time with Free State Stars and Chiefs have to be backed to get their first ninety minute win of the season against a side who look unlikely to hold another big club after overcoming Sundowns.