Prince Olomu was minutes away from being the hero on the day, and scoring a brace against his former club, but a late goal from Stars saw the sides share the points in their first match of the 2009/10 Absa Premiership.
The Free State Derby did not disappoint. Both teams came to play football – that was evident early on – and neither side was willing to back down in the early stages of the game. Consequently the game started at a frantic pace and tackles were coming in thick and fast.
Free State were the first to settle in and find their stride by putting some nice passing movements together. Ea Lla Koto’s new midfield signing, Elder Richartz, was at the heart of his team’s attacks, often igniting things from the middle of the park.
Richartz was the key source of inspiration with his eloquent passing setting his wingers free down both flanks, but their crosses did not match the build-up play which saw their coach, Themba Sithole, ranting and raving on the side-lines.
Stars controlled the majority of the possession in the first half and rightly took the lead in the 32 minute through Richartz. The Stars midfielder did brilliantly to sneak in front of the Celtic defence to control a cross from Ruben Cloete on the left; he then showed real composure to beat Walters from only eight yards out with a cheeky toe-poke, 1-0.
The lead was rightly deserved, but that goal seemed to awaken the Celtic side, or maybe it was their Coach Owen da Gama screaming at them from the side of the pitch. Nonetheless, Celtic started creating some chances of their own and should have drawn level before the break, but some poor finishing by Sandile Ndlovu meant they entered the interval a goal down.
The second half saw Phunya Sele Sele come out guns blazing. Roles from the first half had been completely reversed in the second, and Celtic dominated possession and the flow of the game. The Stars defence seemed to go unstrung in the face of pressure and Celtic began creating chance after chance.
Fittingly in the 56th minute it was none other than the former Stars man, Prince Olomu, who drew Celtic level. Ndlovu redeemed his misses from the first half with a beautiful through-ball for Olomu to run onto, and he made no mistake in blasting the ball past Mweene from ten yards out, 1-1.
The game was far from over, however, and Olomu further stamped his mark on the occasion and instantly became a Celtic hero when he scored his second of the game six minutes later to put his side in front. Olomu pounced onto a loose ball inside the box and beat Mweene on his near post from only six yards out, 2-1.
Celtic then seemed to lay siege on the Stars goal and should have wrapped up the game as they created chance after chance. Moses Spandeel came closest to scoring when he struck the upright in the 84th minute.
Phunya Sele Sele were then made to rue their missed opportunities two minutes from time when Stars substitute Kingston Nkhatha scored his side’s second goal to draw matters level. Richartz whipped in a dangerous cross and after yet another goal mouth scramble Nkhatha forced the ball over the goal line, 2-2.
That is the way the game ended. Both sides looked good in attack, but equally poor in defence. They will both have to work on their defensive structures if they are to do well this season, and a draw was a fair result.