JOHANNESBURG – In a first-half blitz that appeared to have caught visitors SuperSport United by surprise, Bidvest Wits gave a display worthy of true reigning champions to end a four-game winless run and move from the bottom of the Absa Premiership table with a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night.
With a makeshift centre-half pairing of Grant Kekana and Azubuike Egwuekwe, strikers Lehlohonolo Majoro and James Keene piled on the pressure and something had to give – the two goals impressively put away by Bongani Khumalo and Keene.
The second half was much mellower, SuperSport having figured out their opponents and regrouped. But they were at sixes and sevens before that.
Khumalo had benefited from a knock-down header from skipper Thulani Hlatshwayo, who himself looked reborn playing at right back.
It really looked easy pickings for the title holders as they took the lead via the boot of a defender.
And then, in a typical example of their hunger and desire on the night, Keene outmuscled Egwuekwe – the big Nigeria defender – to get to the ball first and squeeze it past goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse and all but end the game as a contest. It was Hlatshwayo again with the assist.
Wits really should have had more, but the scoreline itself was significant in the sense that the Clever Boys won a match by two goals for the first time since May, which was championship-winning month last season.
This was an incredible recovery from losing narrowly to Free State Stars here last Friday in their opening game of 2018.
Had Wits given this sort of performance consistently in this campaign, who is to argue that they would not have been in pole position and well poised to defending their title?
But they instead found themselves rooted to the foot of the Premiership table and moved above Ajax Cape Town for the first time in months.
Their rivals here might be in a bit of a crisis, this defeat meaning SuperSport have now failed to win any of their previous seven domestic matches.
It’s possible that defender Morgan Gould’s suspension hurt them, forcing coach Eric Tinkler to play right back Kekana as a centre-half.
Even though they managed to control the tempo of the match in the second half, SuperSport were still a yard off the pace. Their biggest liability was striker Jeremy Brockie, who continues to be pedestrian in important matches and has not scored since October.
Brockie has been the subject of interest from Mamelodi Sundowns, and the possibility of him moving has again surfaced in this January transfer window. The player did hand in a request to join Sundowns back in August, which was denied.
Tinkler may yet have to deal with an unsettled player, who is usually the main source for goals, but terribly out of form and probably eager to be elsewhere before the end of the month.
The mount for a title challenge is impossible for Wits, but their showing here on Wednesday night – if consistent – could mean they have a say on who takes over as the new league champions.