Bloemfontein Celtic captured South Africa's Telkom Knockout Cup for first time in the club's history with a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns at Moses Mahbida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Sundowns, who have won only two of their 12 PSL games so far, leaving them second from bottom of the standings. They had viewed the Cup final as an opportunity to turn around their season. Instead they lost out to a controversial goal.
Joel Mogorosi was awarded the winner in the 47th minute, but it was questionable whether the whole ball crossed the line after his header was cleared by Clayton Daniels. Long-time football followers will know, however, that when matters get bad, bad decisions seem to follow those teams.
'The goal came out of nowhere'
"The goal came out of nowhere," said Sundowns' coach Johan Neeskens after the game. "I still want to see the replay. I'm not sure whether the ball was fully over the line."
He graciously added: "I have to congratulate Bloemfontein Celtic because when they beat teams like Orlando Pirates, Free State Stars and also us, then they deserve to win this Cup."
Unfortunately for the Dutch great, it was his last match in charge of the club, which fired him on Monday and replaced him with former Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane.
It was a wonderful occasion for Celtic coach Clinton Larsen, who led his team to the title in front of family and friends in the city where he played most of his professional football.
'An emotional ride'
"What an emotional ride, a roller-coaster ride. I'm so proud of my boys today. They gave it their all," he said in a post-match interview.
"I said from the beginning it would have been an injustice had we not won this cup after the route we've had [to take] and I'm ecstatic."
Questioned about what he said to lift his team at the break, Larsen said: "What I said to the boys is that we had the best chance in the first half. We weren't playing our best football at all and we were well in the game, and I said that's a sign that this cup was meant for us."
Sweeping attacking move
A sweeping attacking move in the ninth minute created some space for Teko Modise, who tested Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb with a left footed shot from just outside the box. The Cameroonian net-minder was up to the task, diving to his right to bat the ball away, which left Modise looking skywards, palms held upwards beseechingly.
In the 16th minute Lennox Bacela had an excellent opportunity to put Celtic ahead when he rounded the Brazilians' defence after his marker slipped. Bacela, though, was indecisive and shot later than he should have, allowing Wayne Sandilands to block his effort with his feet.
Sundowns responded with a long range shot from Temba Zwane, which flew over the top of the Celtic goal, and an angled shot, wide of the mark, by Richard Henyekane, who had been played in after a neat interchange of passes.
Shaved the post
On the half-hour mark, Ruzaigh Gamildien showed good control on the edge of the Sundowns' box to create space for himself and fire off a shot that shaved Sandilands' left post.
Zwane forced Tignyemb to tip a shot over the bar after he let fly from an angle on the edge of the box five minutes from the break.
Just two minutes into the second half, Sandilands misjudged a cross from the left and the ball fell to Mogorosi just outside Sundowns' right hand post, about seven metres out. He headed goalwards. Daniels cleared, but the linesman ruled the ball had crossed the line. Replays suggested the decision was incorrect, bit the goal stood.
A lovely, flowing attack by Celtic almost gave them a second goal five minutes later. Gamildien received the ball from the right and fired across goal, once again shaving the keepers' left hand post.
Sundowns' Eleazar Rodgers fired wide right of the mark with a volley after picking up a loose ball on the edge of box just before the hour-mark.
The Pretoria club pushed hard for an equaliser, but a shot by Modise deflected into the hands of Tignyemb and an appeal for hand ball was dismissed by the referee.
In time added on, Gamildien came close to delivering the killer blow for Celtic when he robbed the last 'Downs defender and smashed the ball across goal. It struck the inside of the post and rebounded out, leaving him without a goal, but as close to a hat-trick as one could come.
A snap shot on the turn by Anthony Laffor, which passed narrowly wide of the Celtic goal, was the Brazilians' last effort of the contest and Celtic went on to victory.