Celtic lament ref's call
Clinton Larsen (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Bloemfontein Celtic had little choice but to look ahead to the Premiership campaign, according to coach Clinton Larsen, who lashed out after a controversial late penalty resulted in an early MTN8 quarter-final exit on Friday night.
"In my opinion, I felt like it was a dubious call from the referee - and for that call to come so late in the game is disappointing," Larsen said.
A dicey decision from rookie referee Zolile Mthetho saw Celtic go down 1-0 to Orlando Pirates at a chilly Orlando Stadium.
Celtic midfielder Kurt Lentjies was adjudged to have handled a Sifiso Myeni cross from the left in the penalty box.
Andile Jali duly converted from the spot in the 82nd minute, easily beating Man of the Match Patrick Tignyemb in the Celtic goal.
"We had also created a lot chances prior to the goal that we did not convert," Larsen said.
"Lentjies had a chance to score in the box...(Thabo) Nthethe too missed a good opportunity.
"I did see some positives and a fighting spirit from the guys in this match, and I was happy with the work ethic.
"I also believe we would have been better."
Pirates, the defending champions, marched into the semi-finals as they went in search for a third successive Top Eight title.
However, coach Augusto Palacios was sweating over injuries to key players in the match.
They include an elbow ailment to star midfielder Oupa Manyisa and a hamstring strain for defender Rooi Mahamutsa.
The Buccaneers, the successive treble winners, also begin their Premiership title defence against Golden Arrows at home next Friday.
"We have a few injuries and knocks that we will have to look at," Palacios said.
"Manyisa was taken to hospital to see the extent of his injury.
"There is also Daine Klate, Thabo Matlaba, as well as some other players with knocks."
Palacios praised Celtic keeper Tignyemb for a number of blinding saves that kept the hosts at bay.
"Celtic put up a good side," he said, "and their keeper was fantastic and made four or five saves."