Stellenbosch FC (SFC) played out to a one-all draw when they faced Bloemfontein Celtic FC at the Dr. Molemela Stadium this past weekend (Saturday, 17).
After a one game suspension Zitah Macheke returned to the starting 11 in what was a very special occasion for the right-full back, reaching an honourable milestone of 100 top-flight PSL appearances. Other changes to the first 11 saw Azeemud-Deen Brenner receive his first PSL cap and debut start for SFC, replacing an injured Marc Van Heerden, and up-front saw the return for Kayamandi born Leletu Skelem, who was declared fit mid-week.
It was that combination on the left between Brenner and Skelem that got us underway at the Dr. Molemela Stadium, when the debutant comfortably stamped his authority on the game, collecting it out wide and putting his teammate through in some space resulting in the game’s first corner. An easing of the nerves for young Brenner and a fruitful indication of what was to come in this encounter.
SFC Head Coach Steve Barker said, “First half I thought we created the better chances despite Celtic having more of the ball.”
Celtic enjoyed the lions share of the possession but failed to test the Stellenbosch FC goalkeeper, Lee Langeveldt, who captained the side in the absence of skipper Robyn Johannes. It was, however, the Maroon and Gold who looked more dangerous on the counterattack but failed to make their chances count, lacking an end product in the final third.
Stellenbosch found their break-through in the 44th minute when D. Van Rooyen, carried the ball with ferocious guile toward the Celtic box line. Unstoppable and just too quick for the Celtic defence, Van Rooyen attempted to put Adams in on goal. Last ditch defending saw Adams cluttered in a fierce but fair tackle and Van Rooyen dashed in the aftermath in an attempt to hit the loose ball, but he too was denied by the Celtic defender. The dust just beginning to settle, up-popped the ball, and up-stepped L. Skelem, who smashed it on the half volley, rattling the back of the net, opening his side’s account for the game- 1-0 the score, Stellenbosch head into the break a goal to the good.
“I am always happy to contribute in whatever way possible. I thank God for my health and that I could come back stronger and score for my team”, said Skelem who recently returned to training from isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 at the turn of the year.
Celtic came out the hungrier team after the re-start, playing with real intensity and a desire to unwrite their wrongs this season. Stellenbosch disciplined in defence, soaked up an onslaught of pressure and transitioned well, with pace, but still lacking the clinical finishing in the final third.
In the 57th minute and against the run of play it was the men in white and green that looked to pierce the SFC armour when a counterattack saw the Stellenbosch FC defence short staffed and without cover.
A 3v2 became and 3v3 but despite the efforts to fall back, the men in Maroon could not stop the Celtic equalizer. Masuku fired his shot which deflected off the foot of the Stellies defender, leaving no chance for a planted Langeveldt who could do nothing but stare at his side’s misfortune.
With the game opening up and an introduction of new life in that of substitutes J. Mendieta and G. Scott, Stellenbosch began to knock on the door of the Celtic defence.
Poignant efforts saw Mendieta carry the ball through the centre of the pitch, feeding N. Sinkala on the over-lap who picked out L. Skelem, putting the ball on a platter for the striker, who failed to find the back of the net.
Mendieta breathing life in the Stellies attack carried the ball once more this time from left to centre pulling the Celtic defence out of shape, leaving space for an over-lapping N. Sinkala. A drop of the shoulder from the Argentinian saw him dummy a shot and feed the on-coming Sinkala, who too fluffed his lines, keeper to beat.
A point on the road is all Stellies could muster but steadily gaining in confidence, 7th on the log and unbeaten in four.
“Pleased with the performance, I thought we showed great commitment, but I am slightly disappointed to not have walked away with maximum points today”, said Barker.