Even with the title of being South African champions, Bidvest Wits still couldn’t break the stranglehold Free State Stars have over them in Bethlehem on Wednesday night as they played to a 2-2 Absa Premiership stalemate.
For the fourth year in a row, the Clever Boys left Goble Park without a win. But for a brief moment, it looked like they would finally beat their bogey team in their own backyard.
Reeve Frosler scored a goal that almost gave Wits their first victory over Stars on the road for the first time since 2013, but those celebrations didn’t last.
The fullback turned into a villain after bringing down Sibusiso Hlubi a minute before fulltime, and Siphelele Mthembu stepped up and converted the penalty.
The Clever Boys gave themselves options in their attack by handing Kobamelo Kodisang his debut and having Eleazar Rodgers lead the attack.
The 17-year-old Kodisang brought youthful exuberance and a lot of pace to complement Gabadinho Mhango, while the lanky Rodgers added aerial strength to the dimension as the target man.
Wits were driven to kickstart their title defence by making up for the loss to Cape Town City.
That didn’t happen, which gives the club a lot to think about in trying to return to the force they were in the last campaign.
Wits took the game to the hosts and rattled them early in the match. Kodisang showed why he is a bright prospect for the future with a brilliant run on the right flank, before unleashing a shot that goalkeeper Baba Ali Sangare bundled into his own net.
Ea Lla Koto didn’t panic with a psychological edge over Wits. They were composed in their well-worked build-up that forced goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs to pull top-drawer saves.
But the veteran shot-stopper stood no chance with the rocket that Katlego Mokhuoane fired into the roof of the net.
Mokhuoane finished a move that was started by Makhehleni Makhaula, who skinned Kodisang, played a lovely one-two with Allen Nono before putting the ball on a platter for Mokhuoane.
Wits coach Gavin Hunt stood helplessly a couple of metres behind his assistant Paul Jonhstone, who was in charge as Hunt sat out his second match in his two-game ban for being sent off against Golden Arrows.
Hunt passed on instructions to Johnstone more easily then he did at Milpark, as he was able to shout them to the bench, but even those words didn’t change the club’s bad fortune against Stars.
The hosts also had suspensions of their own. They started without the suspended Sifiso Mbhele, and played the last 21 minutes with 10 men after Thamsanqa Teyise was sent off for two bookable offences.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Ea Lla Koto held on to maintain their record over Wits.