Johannesburg: Bidvest Wits have kept themselves in Absa Premiership title contention with a thrilling 3-2 win over Bloemfontein Celtic at Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday.
The Clever Boys, who came from a goal down with two strikes in the dying minutes, are 11 points adrift of leaders Kaizer Chiefs, but have three games in hand. Phunya Sele Sele, meanwhile, drop to sixth place with the defeat.
Wits were the first to settle and claimed the lead 13 minutes into the match, with former Black Leopards midfielder Phatutshedzo Nange latching onto a pass from Elias Pelembe into the ‘D’ of the penalty area before sending a perfectly-placed shot into the top corner of the net.
Celtic had a great chance to draw level four minutes later when some slack defending from the hosts allowed Ndumiso Mabena a clear sight of goal, but he failed to hit the target with only goalkeeper Ricardo Goss to beat.
Wits went on to create several fine chances through the remainder of the first half, but they found Celtic goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane in top form: the gloves-man made two key saves to prevent Deon Hotto doubling the hosts’ advantage in the minutes leading up to the interval.
The visitors also had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down, with Mabena going down in the 18-yard area but failing to win any sympathy from the referee. This left the Clever Boys with a narrow 1-0 advantage at the break.
Wits came close to doubling their lead early in the second half when Terrence Dzvukamanja headed wide from Hotto’s corner kick, but instead the next goal of the game came from Celtic: Menzi Masuku equalised in the 52nd minute, slotting home from Siphelele Luthuli’s cross to make it level at 1-1.
And the Bloemfontein side claimed the lead for the first time in the 77th minute. This time Masuku turned provider, playing in a low cross from the right to find substitute Andile Fikizolo, who struck home from close range to make it 2-1 in favour of Phunya Sele Sele.
Having gone behind, the Clever Boys suddenly clicked into higher gears and turned the game around in the dying minutes. First Haashim Domingo levelled the game at 2-2 in the 81st minute, netting with a deflected shot, before Gift Motupa acrobatically struck home from close range after initially being denied in the 84th to keep up his form and put the home side back in front at 3-2.
Motupa’s strike proved decisive, with the Johannesburg side holding out for a narrow victory and a deserved but hard-fought three points.
The teams will return to Premiership action this weekend: Wits will be away to Cape Town City on Saturday evening, while Celtic will be ‘home’ to Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium due to renovations at Dr Molemela Stadium.
Bidvest Wits (1) 3 (Nange 13’ Domingo 81’, Motupa 85’)
Bloemfontein Celtic (0) 2 (Masuku 52’, Fikizolo 77’)
Wits: Goss, Macheke, Hlatshwayo, Nonyane, Hlanti, Pelembe, Nange (Monare 69’), Alexander, Hotto, Dzvukamanja (Domingo 64’), Evanga (Motupa 76’)
Celtic: Mabokgwane, Khasipe, Rikhotso, Mahashe, Ngobeni, Luthuli, Phalane, Mashikinya, Masuku (Baloyi 82’), Mabena, Letsoalo (Fikizolo 75’). Psl.co.za