Cape Town City on top, but Wits hang on


With Cape Town City and Wits playing to a 1-1 draw at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night, there’s no doubt that we’re still in for an edgy, extremely tight finish as the race for the PSL title enters the final straight.

As it stands now, City continue to occupy the summit with 46 points, followed by Wits and Kaizer Chiefs on 45 and Mamelodi Sundowns with 44.

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Cape Town City captain Lebogang Manyama keeps Phumlani Ntshangase of Wits at bay on Wednesday night. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePixPhakamani Mahlambi (second from left) is congratulated by his Wits teammates after converting a penalty. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

Wednesday night’s fixture between City and Wits was never going to be a title-defining clash, but it was an encounter that was always going to be vital with regard to staying in touch.

As such, both teams would have been happy with a draw and the requisite point. Defeat, at this stage of the season, is something a title contender can ill-afford.

City were, by far, the better team on the night, but Wits are such a disciplined defensive unit that they were able to snatch a point, even though they were under the cosh for large periods of the match.

The drama and intrigue expected from a much-anticipated fixture such as this, especially with so much at stake at the top of the standings, began as early as the fourth minute.

There wasn’t even time for the teams to suss each other out as the tricky Phakamani Mahlambi sprang into action by forcing a rash tackle from City’s right back Thamsanqa Mkhize in the penalty area.

Referee Victor Gomes had no hesitation in pointing to the spot – and Mahlambi himself stepped up to comfortably convert.

Despite this early setback, City dominated possession and territory. Wits, though, are an organised, structured and cohesive unit and the Capetonians initially struggled to break them down.

At the other end, Mahlambi continued to be a headache for the Clever Boys on the break – and on one occasion, his cross just eluded the head of Wits striker Cuthbert Malajila.

As the game progressed, however, City got stronger and stronger, which led to them carving Wits open at will.

There was Lebogang Manyama at his creative best, the speedy presence of Aubrey Ngoma, the graft of Roland Putsche, and Ebrahim Seedat was absolutely brilliant from left back.

With more composure in front of goal and better, more clinical finishing, the Cape side could have put the game to bed in the opening 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, Judas Moseamedi failed to connect a header with an empty net gaping, Sibusiso Masina miskicked an inviting opportunity and Mkhize’s effort was cleared off the goal-line by Wits centre back Buhle Mkhwanazi.

City piled on the pressure. They attacked with gusto, with purpose and with the desire and effervescence that have characterised their football all season.

Something had to give – and it duly did in the 71st minute when Ngoma’s wickedly delivered free kick was met by the head of Tshepo Gumede and the Capetonians were level at 1-1.

And, even though City threw everything in an attempt to take all three points, that was how it ended.

Over the last few years, the football grapevine has been abuzz with talk of Mahlambi. The youngster had shown that, with his pace, skill and arrogance on the ball, he could be the next big thing to hit the PSL.

He hasn’t always delivered and has been a tad inconsistent this season, but on Wednesday night, his vast potential and immense talent were fully on display.

While City may have played the football and hogged possession, whenever Wits hit on the counter, it was Mahlambi who caused the City defence major problems.

After City equalised, though, Wits coach Gavin Hunt withdrew the young star as he opted to hang on to the point.

But throughout, even as City came at Wits with wave after wave of attack, the courage and commitment of the Clever Boys’ defence were admirable.

Mkhwanazi and Thulani Hlatshwayo in central defence were superb and, at times, the duo single-handedly kept their team in the game with some brave tackling and astute defending.

But, boy, this City team are wonderful to watch. Again, their resilience was evident, together with that magnificent team ethic that has endeared them to football followers across the length and breadth of the country.

In fact, for a neutral, this was a wonderful game to behold. There was everything – great defence, scintillating offence, tactics from off the bench, individual skill, tension, intrigue and so much more.

All in all, it was just a fantastic advert for the PSL.

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