celtic focus on the league

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Bloemfontein Celtic insist their continued participation in the Nedbank Cup will not make them lose focus in their quest to avoid relegation.

This comes after Phunya SeleSele reached the quarterfinals of Ke Yona, a feat not celebrated by some of their fans concerned about their relegation battle.

Celtic ended Orlando Pirates' dream of a double after beating them 2-1 in a last-16 stage at Olen Park on Saturday night.

Darrel Smith, Celtic's saviour, assured Siwelele that Celtic will still be campaigning in the Premiership next season.

"We are in the Premiership to stay for good. Of course, the league is more important, but we cannot just pretend as if we are only playing for the championship title.

"Doing well in the Nedbank Cup will help us in raising the hopes as we wrap up the league campaign and also for maintaining the winning momentum.

"Our supporters also deserve a trophy over and above escaping relegation for being so wonderful to us and South African soccer. We are now treating all the games like cup finals."

Siphelele Mthembu, Pirates' striker, said: "It was not our day, we were just unlucky in front of Celtic's goal area."

Owen Da Gama, Celtic's coach, said: "We are naturally excited with the victory but I still maintain that the focus is on the league. We were lucky to win by beating a full strength Pirates team, considering we were minus regulars like Timothy Batabaire, John Maduka and Thabo Nthethe.

Rudi Krol, Pirates' coach, said they had themselves to blame for the defeat, which Celtic players, officials and Siwelele celebrated as if they had won a major title.

Krol was disappointed that his charges failed to convert dozens of scoring opportunities in the first half and gave Celtic's players too much space in the second one.

The weakest link in Pirates' line-up was Mlungusi Gumbi, who contributed to the two goals conceded by Amabhakabhaka.

Once more, it was clear that Pirates rely too much on midfield magician Teko Modise, whose fierce shot was slightly touched by Mthembu's head before going into an empty net in the 11th minute.

The visitors, however, bounced back in the second half and were rewarded when Patrick Malokase and Smith scored in the 77th and 82nd minutes, respectively.

The two sides meet again in a league match at Free State Stadium on April 5.