Gerald Phiri (second from right, No 10) celebrates with his Baroka FC teammates after scoring from a free kick against Wits on Tuesday. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Having come into this encounter brimming with confidence at the top of the log, Wits came down from cloud nine to go down 1-0 to Baroka FC at Bidvest Stadium on Tuesday night.

The two teams had different results in their season’s openers – Wits hammering AmaZulu 3-0 away, while Baroka came from behind to share the spoils 2-2 with Cape Town City at home.

But both teams know the loss of points could come back to bite them at the end.

Last term, the Clever Boys went into the Christmas break looking to have done enough to have secured the Premiership title after a couple of impressive exploits on the road.

But after losing matches at home, Gavin Hunt’s team could only salvage a third-placed league finish as Mamelodi Sundowns had enough zest to defend their crown.

And that’s probably why the Students were disciplined on Tuesday night.

The engine-room duo of Cole Alexander and Thabang Monare protected a defensive line that had a number of lapses in concentration.

Fullbacks Keagan Ritchie and Zitha Macheke are only becoming an integral part of the team this season, having replaced the injured Sifiso Hlanti and released Vuyo Mere respectively.

However, while Baroka’s pacy wingers were denied access down the flanks, Deon Hotto was a nightmare for Matome Kgoetyane to handle.

The Namibian international’s delightful crosses nearly forced Elvis Chipezeze’s ‘butter fingers’ into yet another blunder, but by the time he let the ball slip, his defence had already cleared away the danger.

But possession is all that Wits would take to the break, while Bakgaga had the all important lead.

Following a throw-in from Kgoetyane, Buhle Mkhwanazi kicked the ball inside his own box into his teammate Monare’s hand.

But referee Tshidiso Maruping was far from the action and awarded a free kick, despite his assistant Shaun Olive pointing to the spot.

But penalty or not, that didn’t matter for Gerald Phiri, the Malawian international curling his set-piece effort to kiss the roof of the net.

The second half belonged to the home side as Wits fought hard to restore parity. Ritchie came close to finding the equaliser for his side, only for his bottom corner-bound set-piece to find a wide awake Chipezeze.

The Clever Boys’ returnee Mxolisi Macupu could have benefited from the resultant set-piece, but Chipezeze’s reflexes came to the rescue, blocking the former’s header for another corner.

The Zimbabwean shot-stopper appears to have put his horrendous campaign with the national team during the recent Africa Cup of Nations behind him, as he was unbeatable on the night.

So much so that Sameehg Doutie went on a one-on-one duel with the former, who cleverly closed the angle before forcing the effort for a corner.

Bakgaga will take the full points as they try to rectify the mistakes of last season, while Hunt’s men will be hoping to chase away the hoodoo at home when they welcome SuperSport United in the MTN8 clash here on August 17.

@Mihlalibaleka


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