Cape Town City finally got to know what it feels like to lose to Bidvest Wits when the Clever Boys edged Benni McCarthy’s side 2-1 in an entertaining PSL fixture played at the Athlone Stadium on Saturday night.
Having beaten Wits on four previous occasions this season, a fifth victory proved to be out of the Citizens’ reach.
It was certainly a case of contrasts for the two teams – champions Wits are slowly starting to find that winning momentum again, while City are in the midst of yet another mini-slump.
On Saturday, with City a central midfielder short because of the suspension of Austrian Roland Putsche and the injured Mpho Matsi, coach Benni McCarthy shifted captain Robyn Johannes to the middle of the park, with Taariq Fielies and Tshepo Gumede in central defence.
A tight, tactical first half, with few scoring chances, saw City lose concentration at a crucial stage seconds before the break.
Wits winger Abednigo Mosiahlaga skipped clear down the right, cut back the cross, and Lehlohonolo Majoro was at hand to steer the ball into the net against his former club.
Mosiahlaga was particularly impressive. He has had loan spells in the Mother City at Cape Town All Stars and Stellenbosch FC, and it showed, in that he looked quite at home at Athlone on Saturday night.
He looks a real prospect – tricky, quick and really confident on the ball.
Wits’ goal just before the halftime whistle was against the run of play because up to then, City had made all the running, but were just unable to make their possession count.
The Clever Boys made their intentions clear right from the start of the game, with some really feisty tackles.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Johannesburg side had both Edwin Gyimah and Keegan Ritchie booked as they brutally got stuck into City’s Teko Modise, Craig Martin and Thabo Nodada.
The Cape side’s best opportunities early on fell to Matthew Rusike when he headed over in the opening minute, while Martin’s goal-bound effort was cleared by Wits defender Buhle Mkhwanazi.
Both teams lost players to injury in the opening 25 minutes, with Wits’ Gabadinho Mhango off and replaced by Vincent Pule, while Rusike pulled a hamstring and on came Nana Akosah-Bempah.
With City in need of some inspiration to get back on level terms in the second half, it duly arrived in the form of the industrious, magical Nodada.
Usually known for his lung-busting drives from midfield, Nodada showed that he has some trickery too.
Cramped for space on the goal-line, near the corner flag, he ghosted beyond his marker with quick feet and some incredible skill, turned in the cross and Martin whipped in a delightful shot that thundered into the net.
With the score at 1-1 and all to play for, it was Wits who again took the game to the home side.
Another lapse in defence from the Capetonians allowed that ace goal-poacher Majoro in again, and the striker made his former club pay with another fine finish in the 73rd minute.
As the game finally started to open up towards the end, Modise produced a special moment so reminiscent of his glory years when he fired in a powerful angled shot, but Wits goalkeeper Darren Keet’s acrobatic save denied the veteran.
So, yet another defeat for City, and that’s three on the trot – to Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Wits.
The problem is still the same: as much as they create, too many opportunities go begging.