By Rodney Reiners
By the end of the opening 45 minutes at Athlone on Wednesday night, Wits University were already down to nine men.
There was no way back from the abyss - and, in the end, Wits were fortunate to only lose 5-2 to Ajax Cape Town.
Not that the men from Milpark deserved such humiliation, it was the attention-seeking antics of referee Peter Mabuza that spoiled what could have been an intriguing encounter.
Mabuza flashed yellow cards with impunity for some of the most innocuous tackles. Someone should tell this kindergarten match official that he was refereeing a professional club match at the highest level in SA football, not an under-10 kick around. Someone should remind him that football is a game of contact, of tackle and be tackled, and is expected to be of a robust, physical nature.
It was within this farcical atmosphere that Wits had two players - Wilson Shendzelani and Bienvenu Tipa - sent off within the opening 45 minutes.
The easy victory consolidated Ajax's position at the top of the Premier League log.
Neighbours Santos recorded their first victory of the season, edging out Golden Arrows 1-0 in Durban. Talisman Erwin Isaacs got the winner in a match that coach Jean-Marc Ithier sees as the turning point in Santos' struggling season.
Ithier has always maintained that there is enough talent at Santos. All the team has lacked is confidence - Wednesday's away win could certainly have acted as a major boost for Cape side.
Elsewhere, there were victories for the "Big Three", Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
Ezrom Nyandoro got the winner as Sundowns beat Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 and Shaun Bartlett got one of the goals for Chiefs in a 3-0 defeat of Free State Stars.
Orlando Pirates travelled up to Venda and came away with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Black Leopards, as new coach Owen da Gama continues to influence the Buccaneers in a positive manner.
In other results on Wednesday, SuperSport United and Platinum Stars drew 1-1, so too did Moroka Swallows and Thanda Royal Zulu, while AmaZulu and Jomo Cosmos played out a goalless draw.
At Athlone, though, except for a fourth minute penalty converted by Noah Chivutah, nothing seemed to go right for Wits on the night.
Ajax, though, after going down so early in the match, then showed great character to come storming back just eight minutes later.
And the equaliser came from the move of the match, the slick inter-passing so typical of the "Ajax way".
Defensive midfielder Eyong Enoh started the play from deep and then, after swift interchanges with Mfundo Shumana and Franklin Cale, the ball was sent out wide for the overlapping left-back Brett Evans.
Evans still had a lot of work to do, but with admirable perserverance he chased the ball down at the corner flag, sent in a teasing cross and Russel Mwafulirwa was at hand to head the ball home.
It was the beginning of the end for Wits. Cale set up Bryce Moon for the second and then substitute Mkanyiseli Siwahla's shot was deflected off Wits defender Neil Winstanley into the net of the wrong-footed Moeneeb Josephs in goal.
With only nine men and desperately trying to plug the many holes on the field, Wits were on a hiding to nothing.
Mwafulirwa made it 4-1 after being set up by Moon and Thembinkosi Fanteni, in his last few games for Ajax before leaving to play for top Israeli club Maccabi Haifa, got the fifth, tapping in after Siwahla had created the opening.
Wits' embarrassment was compounded when Ajax had the audacity to substitute goalkeeper Hans vonk with 10 minutes remaining, so as to give new American custodian, Morgan Cathey, a debut.
Wits, though, still managed to nab a consolation in the dying seconds when substitute Marcos de Jesus slammed the ball past Cathey.
Coming up in the PSL this weekend:
Saturday: SuperSport United v Amazulu
Sunday: Black Leopards v Santos; Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates; Ajax Cape Town v Free State Stars (Athlone, 3pm ); Platinum Stars v Wits University; Bloem Celtic v Golden Arrows