Bloemfontein Celtic stunned Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8 quarterfinals at Lucas Moripe Stadium on Sunday evening, as Victor Letsoalo’s goal handed Phunya Sele Sele a 1-0 win.
It was the worst possible start to the post-Pitso Mosimane era at Masandawana as the home side gave a largely insipid display, with plenty to ponder for Sundowns co-coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena, as well as senior coach Steve Komphela.
For John Maduka’s Celtic, meanwhile, this was sweet revenge for the Nedbank Cup final just over a month ago, which Sundowns won 1-0 to complete a domestic treble.
Sundowns went into the game with just two of their raft of new signings in the starting line-up. Peter Shalulile, the joint top scorer in the league at Highlands Park last season, started for Masandawana in attack and Haashim Domingo, brought in from Bidvest Wits, made his first appearance on the left wing.
Sundowns were on the front foot early, and a shot from Ricardo Nascimento, who had come forward for a set piece, was well saved by Jackson Mabokgwane in the Celtic goal.
Celtic were looking to play mainly on the break, but looked dangerous at times, with Letsoalo and Motebang Sera picking up where they left off last season.
One fine cross found Sera, but his chest control let him down and Denis Onyango was able to gather.
In the 32nd minute, it was Sundowns who threatened again, as Gaston Sirino flicked a fine near post effort towards goal but Mabokgwane made another superb save.
Sera then volleyed over at the other end while Letsoalo was inches wide with a low effort from just outside the box.
Shalulile did have the ball in the net, meanwhile, on the stroke of half time, but his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
The same player tested Celtic again just after the break, but Mabokgwane made another save, before a thunderbolt from Hlompho Kekana came even closer, rattling the Celtic woodwork.
Sundowns bought on Kermit Erasmus for his debut after the break, replacing Domingo, but it was Celtic who went in front in the 68th minute.
Sifiso Ngobeni swung a free kick deep into the Sundowns box, and Letsoalo was on hand to head the ball home.
Sundowns came roaring back at Celtic and Themba Zwane burst into the area, but his shot was inches wide, and in the end Celtic played out the game without too much more alarm, seeing out six minutes of stoppage time to seal a wonderful win.