Mamelodi Sundowns’ 2020-21 season got off to a nightmare start on Sunday evening when they were beaten 1-0 by Bloemfontein Celtic in the last MTN8 quarterfinal.
The match at Lucas Moripe Stadium was dominated by the Brazilians, but a fine goalkeeping performance from Jackson Mabokgwane and a lone goal from Victor Letsoalo saw Phunya Sele Sele claim revenge for last month’s Nedbank Cup final defeat and join SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the semifinals.
Sundowns had the first clear chance just five minutes into the match, with a corner kick travelling through a crowd of bodies before Ricardo Nascimento stabbed a shot on target, only to be denied by an excellent save from Jackson Mabokgwane.
The Celtic goalkeeper came up trumps again just past the half hour mark, diving sharply to his right to claw away a Gaston Sirino effort which threatened to break the deadlock and give ‘Downs something to show for their dominance.
Celtic grew in confidence as the match progressed, but apart from Motebang Sera failing to control a ball when he would have had a clear sight of goal in the opening quarter hour, they failed to trouble Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango in the first half.
After a goalless opening 45 minutes, the second half almost saw a goal soon after the restart when Peter Shalulile ran onto a ball over the top of the Celtic defence but saw his low effort blocked by the legs of Mabokgwane.
On 58 minutes Hlompho Kekana almost scored with a trademark long-range screamer which hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce down onto – but not over – the goal line, with Mabokgwane doing well to prevent a goal from the subsequent loose ball.
It seemed only a matter of time until ‘Downs claimed the lead, but instead it was Phunya Sele Sele who made the breakthrough on 69 minutes. A fine free kick delivery from the left flank picked out Victor Letsoalo, who guided a header back across to the far corner to put Celtic 1-0 up.
Sundowns nearly responded in quick fashion when Themba Zwane ran at the Celtic defence and fired a low shot wide of the mark, but that proved to be the closest the hosts would come to a goal in what remained of the game.
Even a late, desperate triple substitution which saw Andile Jali, Keletso Makgalwa and Sphelele Mkhulise thrown on by the Brazilians’ coaching team was not enough to force an equaliser, ensuring a surprise win for the team in green and white.
Mamelodi Sundowns 0
Bloemfontein Celtic (0) 1 (Letsoalo 69’)
Sundowns: Onyango, Mobbie (Modiba 73’), Nascimento, Madisha, Lakay, Domingo (Erasmus 62’), Coetzee (Jali 89’), Kekana, Zwane, Sirino (Mkhulise 89’), Shalulile (Makgalwa 89’)
Celtic: Mabokgwane, Ngobeni, Mahasha, Lingwati (Rikhotso 85’), Pfumbidzai, Luthuli, Mashikinya, Baloyi, Sera (Masuku 68’), Tchilimbou (Mangweni 68’), Letsoalo (Maema 79’)