Deon Hotto scored the winner for Wits with a header against Chippa United. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Wits moved within three points of Premiership pacesetters Orlando Pirates after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday night.

In an absorbing game that could have gone either way, based on the chances both sides enjoyed, Namibian international Deon Hotto’s 75th-minute header proved to be the difference.

The visiting team had the better of the first half chances, starting around the 14th-minute mark as Elias Pelembe and Thabang Monare both had shots blocked, before Thulani Hlatshwayo’s header from a Pelembe cross was acrobatically tipped on to the bar by home keeper Mbongeni Mzimela.

Looking to hit Wits on the counter, Chippa did fashion a few chances for themselves, and they could have taken the lead in the 16th minute had Thabo Rakhale been more clinical.

The Chilli Boys also had a few sniffs at goal through Tebogo Tlolane and Mark Mayambela, but neither troubled Wits keeper Ricardo Goss.

The Students, though, continued to do most of the pressing, but it wouldn’t fall for Lehlohonolo Majoro in particular in front of goal as he had a couple of half-chances, before Terrence Dzvukamanja sent a curling effort well wide after a promising build-up just before the interval.

Wits quickly gained control after the break, but having again failed to threaten the opposition goal with three opportunities, they once more found themselves vulnerable on the counter as Mayambela expertly slipped in Rakhale, but with the goal at his mercy, he passed the ball just wide of the left-hand post.

Despite the miss, Chippa grew in confidence, although when the next chance did arrive, with 20 minutes to play, it was at the other end of the field as Haashim Domingo fired wide with an angled shot.

The breakthrough came soon, though, as Pelembe chipped in an inviting cross, which was headed past a wrong-footed Mzimela by Hotto.

Ruzaigh Gamildien was close to equalising in the 80th minute from a free kick, but Goss did superbly to claw the ball away from goal with a diving save.

The Chilli Boys piled on the pressure in the dying moments of the game, but the Johannesburg outfit held firm as they stayed in the mix to reclaim the Premiership title they won two seasons ago.

Chippa, meanwhile, remain equal on points with 15th-placed Free State Stars, who play Orlando Pirates in Soweto on Saturday night.

African News Agency (ANA)