JOHANNESBURG – Bidvest Wits failed to launch here on Saturday, crashing out of the Caf Champions League and being relegated to the less prestigious Confederation Cup, having battled to unlock an ultra defensive Primeiro de Agosto.
The Angolans triumphed 3-2 via the penalty shoot-out lottery, with the game tied at 1-1 by the end of the first and second leg after Elias Pelembe’s goal deep in the second half meant Wits had clawed their way back into it.
Helped by some time-wasting tactics to protect their slender 1-0 advantage from their home game in Luanda nearly two weeks ago, Agosto held on for dear life and are the ones who will progress to the group stages of the Champions League.
Wits were relegated to the playoffs of the Confederation Cup – so their African sojourn will continue.
But Agosto should have not been the team going through for the next phase at their expense, with the Clever Boys having enjoyed an incredible amount of ball possession and let down by their finishing.
It’s been a problem for them all season, and it reared its ugly head again in this fixture, and they paid the price.
Wits played with intent from the beginning as they needed to chase this encounter, having suffered a 1-0 defeat away in Angola nearly two weeks ago.
Geraldo, the scorer of the only goal of the match then, was again troublesome, and was denied a chance to put the visitors ahead in the first half.
Up until Pelembe scored what was a well-taken goal with around 10 minutes left on the clock, Wits had not managed to get a clear-cut chance to level the score on aggregate or even put this clash to bed – as they should have.
They honestly had enough ammunition on paper, but the one goal was not enough.
Even when they were thrown a lifeline by forcing the match into penalties (no extra-time as per Caf rules), coach Gavin Hunt watched on as striker Lehlohonolo Majoro, goal-scorer Pelembe and veteran Daine Klate missed their spot-kicks.
It was deflating to watch, and perhaps based on their ultra-defensive game plan and determination, Agosto probably deserved to progress to the group stages.
Wits had struggled all night long to pick pockets in defence, with goalkeeper Darren Keet only having to earn his wage when he kept out Geraldo’s attempt on the stroke of halftime.
Keet also came to the party by saving two penalties later on after the game was deadlocked at fulltime.
His teammates failed, however, to give the Clever Boys an edge.