Johannesburg – Moeneeb Josephs was the hero of the day as Wits booked their spot in the final of the Nedbank Cup, courtesy of a 4-2 win, on penalties, over Kaizer Chiefs in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.
With the scores locked at 2-2 after extra-time, Josephs made two stunning stops on the trot to deny Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala from the spot, allowing the Students to capitalise, succeeding in all four kicks and securing progress into the final.
Wits face the winners between Maritzburg United and Orlando Pirates, who were set to do battle later on Saturday.
Sibusiso Vilakazi and Katlego Mphela cancelled each other out before half-time, both from the penalty spot, before Amos Ngcobo bagged the lead for Wits shortly after the break.
But drama followed as George Maluleka equalised for a second time in the 54th minute, ensuring a tight finish which produced plenty of opportunities but led to nothing as the tie was sent into the nerve-wrecking shootout.
A tentative start saw little in the way of chances for either side, despite Wits' regular visits into the opposition half, which bore little fruit for the home side, who looked hungry for cup success against last season's winners.
Wits had the best chance of the opening period on 17 minutes, when a terrible back pass allowed Ngcobo to challenge goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the air, on the edge of the area.
Ngcobo came agonisingly close after reaching the bouncing ball first, heading goalwards, but managed to find the crossbar and was denied by the woodwork, as a relieved Khune saw the ball cleared off the line and out of danger.
Five minutes later, the Clever Boys were ahead and grabbed the advantage through Vilakazi, who converted his own penalty after the Wits skipper was brought down inside the area by Khune, who up-ended the striker.
Referee Robert Smith was left with no choice but to point to the spot, leaving a cool Vilakazi to step up confidently and netted the opener midway through the half, adding to his Premiership tally of eight for the season.
The hosts continued to cause problems at the back for Chiefs, who struggled to deal with the high ball, Vilakazi again threatening from close-range, but a fingertip save from Khune kept the score unchanged.
Smith had another big call to make in the 35th minute, cancelling out the first spot-kick by awarding Chiefs the second penalty of the tie when Maluleka was brought down with a reckless challenge by Phumlani Ntshangase inside the box.
Fresh from scoring his first goal for the Glamour Boys earlier this week, Mphela was handed the ball and dispatched the penalty past Moeneeb Josephs, levelling the score and sending the pair into the half-time break locked at one apiece.
Wits took just 90 seconds to restore their lead after the interval as Ngcobo rounded off some good work from Letladi Madubanya, who centred a square ball for the striker, who snuck in a shot past Khune at his near post, scoring his first goal since netting a brace against Mpumalanga Black Aces on April 5.
But Ngcobo's goal was short-lived, as Amakhosi equalised for a second time, Maluleka cleaning up a cross across the face of goal from Kingston Nkhatha, leaving a stranded Josephs grasping at straws and struggling to find his defenders, who failed to pick up the advancing Chiefs' attackers.
Both teams went about looking for the all-important winner as the clock wound down, keeping the goalkeepers busy at either end.
The thrilling encounter refused to decide a winner after 90
minutes and soon the two contenders took to the field once more for a half-an-hour of extra-time.
A quiet first half of additional time was followed by a more lively second, as Parker struck the upright from a delicate chip over the goalkeeper, before Erick Mathoho forced a corner from which Katsande headed dangerously toward goal, only for the ball to be cleared off the line.
That would be the final chance as the game went the distance, sending the Bidvest crowd onto their feet in anticipation of a thrilling finale. – Sapa