Bloemfontein Celtic will have a mountain to climb for themselves to entertain any hopes of progressing to the Caf Confederation Cup group stages following a first-round, first leg 2-0 defeat to Rivers United at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium on Wednesday.
Late goals from Godwin Aguda and Fortune Omoniwari left Celtic facing a tall order when they visit Rivers United for the January 6 return leg.
It was Siwelele’s second straight home defeat in this competition after losing 2-0 to DR Congolese side Maniema Union in the preliminary round. Then they snuck into this stage of the tournament via a penalty shootout.
On Wednesday, despite Celtic coach John Maduka not on the bench, he opted to rest key players just like he did in the preliminary round home and away fixtures against Maniema Union.
Captain Ndumiso Mabena did not even make the bench together with Siphelele Luthuli, Menzi Masuku and forward Victor Letsoalo.
Sipho Chaine started in goal ahead of veteran goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane while Congolese forward Harris Tchilimbou was handed the captain’s armband.
While Celtic had played three matches since eliminating their Nigerian opponents, they have been inactive since eliminating Futuro Kings from Equatorial Guinea in the preliminary stage.
After a goalless first half, Celtic responded with a double change by introducing attackers Sera Motebang and Reagan van der Ross for Menzi Ndwandwe and Ishmael Njoti respectively, in the 69th minute.
Rivers then struck a minute later when Aguda thrust them ahead before Omoniwari scored with 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
Further changes were made by Celtic five minutes from time when midfielders Shadrack Kobedi and Sello Matjila came on for Given Mashikinya and Tumelo Mangweni but they did not make a difference to the scoreline.