JOHANNESBURG – Bloemfontein Celtic coach John Maduka is still wounded by their defeat in a cup final two months ago but says they’ve learnt their lesson heading into another on Saturday.
It’s been two months of astonishing success for Celtic. Amid their widely documented financial woes, Celtic punched above their weight on the pitch as they reached the final of the Nedbank Cup during the resumption of football in the ‘bio bubble’ last season.
But they were defeated by a determined Mamelodi Sundowns team that completed a domestic treble.
Fast forward a month and Celtic avenged their defeat, knocking Sundowns out of the MTN8 competition early in the new season.
From thereon, their job didn’t get any easier, meeting SuperSport United, the defending champions, in the two-legged semi-final. But Phunya Sele Sele showed that they are made of sterner stuff, holding their own to win the contest 2-1 on aggregate.
They’ll go in search of their first silverware in eight years since winning the Telkom Knockout when they clash with Orlando Pirates in the final of the Wafa Wafa competition at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday (6pm kick-off).
Having endured the pain of losing a cup final, probably due to a lack of experience and stage fright to some of the players in the team, Maduka is confident his troops won’t make the same mistakes twice, saying they have learned from the defeat to Sundowns.
“If you look at that game, you can see that most of the players were not free. They couldn’t express themselves enough. Going into this one, that game will help because we’ll know that we’ve been at this stage before,” said Maduka yesterday.
“For most of the players it’s their second final. So, it will be totally different from the first. You’ll see the players will have freedom. We hope we use that to our advantage and we give our best. Play the game that we know and have prepared.”
Pirates are favourites with Celtic the underdogs. But that doesn’t faze Maduka who says that they are happy for Pirates to take the pressure, while they’ll stick to their normal game.
Unlike Pirates, who are fourth on the standings and undefeated this season, Celtic have already lost three league matches, won one and drawn one. But it’s still early days for the team from the City of Roses, especially having had to juggle between continental and domestic football.
Over the weekend, they progressed to the last stage of the CAF Confederation Cup preliminary round after defeating AS Maniema Union 3-2 on penalties. Celtic lost the game 2-0 at home, while Maniema also lost with the same scoreline at home.
Drawing some positives from their outing on the continent, Maduka believes it was difficult to plan for Maniema, an unknown side, while plotting the downfall of familiar foes, Pirates, will be seamless.
“It (the result of the weekend), helped us a lot going into this one,” Maduka said. “It gave us confidence because it’s not easy playing against people that we don’t know but now we are playing against people that we know. It’s easier to plan.”