Celtic win Free State derby

The result completes Phunya Sele Sele’s first Absa Premiership ‘double’ over Ea Lla Koto, having beaten their regional rivals by the same scoreline at the Botshabelo Stadium back in December.

Striker Siphelele Mthembu scored the only goal of the game, converting a terrific attacking move from the hosts just past the half-hour mark.

Stars seemed to find their rhythm earlier than the hosts, but once Celtic hit the crossbar in the eighth minute – Erick Mathoho stabbed a shot against the woodwork after a scramble in the penalty area – it was the team in green and white who looked the likelier scorers.

Kennedy Mweene was forced into a couple of important interventions, particularly from Danny Venter and Clifford Mulenga – the two creative players looked capable of unlocking the visitors’ defence at any moment.

And in the 32nd minute Celtic took a deserved lead with a beautifully crafted move. Mulenga played a sublime through-ball for the overlapping Prince Hlela on the left, and he in turn clipped a low pass across the face of goal which Mthembu converted.

Ea Lla Koto very nearly struck back – against the run of play – in the 53rd minute – substitute Noah Chivuta was given a clear sight of goal, but he pulled his shot wide under pressure from Mathoho.

That opportunity signalled a shift in the balance of the contest, with the visitors suddenly looking capable of finding a way back into the game. Chivuta had another chance on the hour-mark, but Patrick Tignyemb made a good save.

Celtic remained a threatening attacking force and with just over 20 minutes to play they should have doubled their advantage – Mulenga sliced open Stars’ defence with a powerful run down the right and pulled a perfect ball back for Mthembu, but the striker somehow put his effort over the top from just a couple of metres out.

Stars came within inches of an equaliser in the 82nd minute as defender Sipho Nkosi got on the end of a Chivuta free-kick and powered a header toward goal, only to see the ball rebound off the upright.

Soon thereafter Sekgobela found himself one-on-one with Tignyemb, but the goalkeeper did just enough to stop the striker getting a shot away and Thabo Nthethe was well placed to clear the loose ball before any Stars player could latch onto it.