Pretoria - After a hard-fought 1-0 Premiership victory over Mamelodi Sundowns here on Saturday, Bloemfontein Celtic boss Clinton Larsen says he is pleased with the effort shown by his team, but not the performance.
A first-half Ruzaigh Gamildien strike handed the visitors the victory. It keeps the Free State outfit in the hunt for a top eight finish as the season winds down, with less than five games left for Larsen's troops.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game with the quality of this team (Sundowns)," Larsen said at the Pilditch Stadium after the game.
"They left it all out there and fought for the three points. They defended exactly the way we wanted them to and I'm very pleased with the effort, not so much the performance, but the effort from the boys, I'm very pleased with.
"It's that time of the season now where you need soldiers, and I think that's exactly what our players gave us."
Celtic followed up their 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows last weekend with a successive victory over the Chloorkop outfit, who slip further away from the top eight and look destined for a bottom half finish as the Premiership season approaches its conclusion.
"We knew that they were going to have the lion's share of possession, which they did," Larsen added.
"In our last four or five games we've steam-rolled over some of the teams and haven't got the results, and today we didn't play as well and got the three points."
Larsen praised his defensive unit for their outstanding performance throughout the contest, after Sundowns hit Celtic with a barrage of long balls into the area following Gamildien's opener, which the Celtic defence dealt with, seemingly untroubled.
"I thought they (Celtic defenders) were outstanding at the back, dealing with all those long balls," Larsen said.
"Even in the first half, their (Sundowns) main threat came from the long ball from defence, especially for Richard Henyekane over the top with his pace.
"They caught us out once or twice, but generally the boys defended very well tonight."
Meanwhile, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane was philosophical about the team's readiness ahead of the new season, and warned the former champions could be back to their best when the Premiership restarts in August.
"It's tough times. We must go through adversity," Mosimane said.
"I have a good team, I have a team that tries to win. I will be back next season. I'm hurting but I will be back.
"I know my problems. Our technique is not good at the end, it's not that we are unfortunate."
Mosimane said he needed to correct the technique of his players.
"How many times have we seen my team play against other teams and the coaches come here and say, 'we didn't play well, but we won'?
"We apply the wrong technique. We use the left foot when we're supposed to use the right; we shoot when we're supposed to place the ball.
"When results aren't coming, it's easy to blame and it's easy to point fingers. This team, every week, presses other teams. We just don't apply the right technique at the end, so I will fix it."
In Saturday's other results, a Mame Niang brace eased the University of Pretoria past Black Leopards with a 3-1 victory in Polokwane, Free State Stars returned to winning ways with a 2-1 win over AmaZulu, Ajax Cape Town and Chippa United played to a 1-1 draw at the Philippi Stadium, while Orlando Pirates scored a last minute goal to claim a 1-0 victory over Bidvest Wits at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.