BLACK Leopards opened their 2012/13 Absa Premiership season with a 3-2 win over Bloemfontein Celtic at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
In a fantastically entertaining game that featured five goals, two red cards and a penalty, Lidoda Duvha looked to be in charge of the game at two goals up but needed a strike when down a man to secure the victory after a spirited fight-back from the visitors.
It was evident pretty early on that both teams were rusty and the defences in particular looked a little lacking in match sharpness.
Celtic’s backline was caught out by a simple long ball in the eighth minute that put Rodney Ramagalela through on goal; luckily for the team in green and white, the striker’s control let him down and goalkeeper Patrick Tignymemb collected it.
Two minutes later it was Leopards’ turn to hand their opponents a glaring scoring chance as a comical back-pass was played straight to Lennox Bacela. Goalkeeper Azwindini Maphaha was aware of the danger and made a vital block to keep it at 0-0.
From then on Leopards took control of the game, with the hard-running strike pairing of Ramagalela and Brian Amidu causing Celtic’s defence all kinds of trouble.
On 20 minutes Amidu announced himself with a superbly-taken goal to put the hosts ahead. He drove forward down the left of the penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed drive into the top corner that gave the ‘keeper no chance.
The Zimbabwean striker almost added a second toward the end of the half with a deflected shot from a free kick that flashed wide of the Celtic goal posts. In all, Leopards were worthy of their 1-0 halftime lead.
Celtic showed a lot more intent in the early stages of the second half and should have drawn level on 51 minutes. Danny Venter provided a terrific cross from the right that picked out Lyle Lakay at the back post, but the winger only managed to squirm the ball into the middle of the box.
The ball fell for Bacela, but his quick turn and shot was matched by some good goalkeeping from Maphaha, who had anticipated the situation perfectly and was in place to make another crucial block.
Celtic were made to pay for this on 66 minutes when Leopards doubled their advantage. Substitute Raymond Monama put Thomas Madimba through and the midfielder rounded the ‘keeper before finishing off with his left foot.
On 70 minutes the game changed completely when Leopards midfielder Djunga Munganga was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Letladi Madubanya. Celtic soon took control and soon made it 2-2 with two goals in the space of a minute.
On 76 minutes they got their first when Maphaha’s attempted clearance rebounded off his defender Siphamanda Sithole and rolled into the net. Less than 60 seconds later Madubanya tapped in from close range after Ruzaigh Gamildien steered a lob past the ‘keeper.
Celtic had all the momentum behind them, but defender Dominic Isaacs then gave away a needless penalty when he pulled down Madimba, allowing Ramagalela to put Leopards back in front at 3-2 from the spot kick with 10 minutes to play.
The hosts were able to hold out for the win, much to the frustration of Celtic, who were also reduced to 10 men in injury time when John Arwuah committed a reckless, studs-up lunge of his own.
Black Leopards (1) 3 (Amidu 20’, Madimba 66’, Ramagalela 80’ [pen])
Bloemfontein Celtic (0) 2 (Sithole [og] 76’, Madubanya 77’)
Leopards: Maphaha, Nyirenda, Xakane, Sithole, Madimba, Dzaga, Munganga, Tshepe (Mabunda 54’), Maake (Obaje 75’), Ramagalela, Amidu (Monama 66’)
Celtic: Tignyemb, Leonard, Nthethe, Isaacs, Mahoa, Venter (Gamildien 62’), Lentjies (Manzini 71’), Madubanya, Arwuah, Lakay, Bacela (Nontshinga 71’).
In another opening league match played this afternoon, Paulus Masehe and Noah Chivuta’s goals gave Free State Stars a deserving 2-0 vivtory over BidVest Wits at the Goble Park.-Backpagepix