Johannesburg - Bloemfontein Celtic claimed a third successive Absa Premiership win with a smash-and-grab 1-0 victory at Bidvest Wits on Friday night.
Lerato Lamola’s late penalty earned Phunya Sele Sele a hard-fought win at Bidvest Stadium, with the Clever Boys’ title hopes dealt a big blow in the process.
Wits dominated the first half and pinned Celtic back into their own half, though the home side was unable to capitalise on the scoring chances they created.
The Clever Boys very nearly opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Henrico Botes headed on target, but Vuyani Ntanga performed heroics on the goal line, heading the ball up into the underside of the crossbar to keep the score line blank.
Just over ten minutes later Botes was again at the heart of a Wits attack, pulling back a great pass for Papy Faty from near the right by-line, but the Burundian put his shot high and wide of the target.
Wits’ best chance arrived a couple of minutes before the interval when Siyabonga Nhlapo whipped in a teasing cross from the right flank - Sibusiso Vilakazi got ahead of his marker to meet the ball with a diving header, but directed it wide of the far post.
Celtic were much improved after the break, particularly when coach Clinton Larsen introduced Keegan Buchanan into midfield, with the youngster’s vision and passing ability adding a whole new dimension to their play.
However, Wits remained threatening in attack and very nearly broke the deadlock in the 67th minute. Vilakazi beat goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb to a loose ball in the box following a set piece, but his shot from a tight angle flashed just wide of the target.
The visitors enjoyed a strong spell of pressure and it paid dividends with just under 10 minutes to play, as Lerato Lamola was brought down in the 18-yard area by Siyabonga Nhlapo to earn Celtic a penalty.
The Wits defender earned his second caution (in the space of just a couple of minutes) for the challenge and was duly shown a red card. Lamola coolly converted the spot kick to put Phunya Sele Sele 1-0 up.
The hosts fought bravely with 10 men to force an equaliser in the dying minutes, and substitute Calvin Kadi saw a low shot flash just wide of the mark in injury time, but there were no late heroics from the Johannesburg side.
The result sees Wits stay in second place on the log, 10 points adrift of leaders Kaizer Chiefs. Celtic, meanwhile, move up two places to fifth on 30 points, 10 behind their opponents.
Wits: Josephs, Nhlapo, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi, Bhasera, Doutie (Kadi 66’), Shongwe (Katongo 83’), Ntshangase, Faty (Motshwari 65’), Vilakazi, Botes
Celtic: Tignyemb, Mzava, Fransman, Rikhoto, Ritchie, Ndengane, Nyatama, Gabonamong, Morena (Letlabika 85’), Lamola (Mhango 84’), Ntanga (Buchanan 59’)