DURBAN – Defending champions Bidvest Wits continued their Absa Premiership revival with a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu on Saturday.
First-half goals by Gabadinho Mhango and Lehlohonolo Majoro stretched Wits’ unbeaten league run to six matches and lifted them four places up the standings to 10th.
A late penalty by Arrows defender Limbikani Mzava gave the home outfit hope of a fightback but they struggled to fashion clear openings from open play and their winless run was extended to five matches.
The Students came to the coast with nine changes from the team that beat Pamplemousses of Mauritius 2-0 in an African Champions League preliminary round first leg tie.
Midfielder Thabang Monare and defender Buhle Mkhwanazi were the only players retained from that outing as coach Gavin Hunt reintroduced most of his frontline men in search of three points on the home front.
Arrows also mixed things up, with six changes following the 3-0 Nedbank Cup defeat at Kaizer Chiefs last weekend. Defender Mzwandile Buthelezi, who retained his place from that cup loss, skied a free header which would have given Arrows the lead in the 25th minute.
In searing heat, worsened by Durban’s humidity, Wits scorched to a 2-0 lead within a 10-minute spell of attacking. Malawian Mhango turned on the magic with a tight angle header that needed the precision of threading cotton through a needle, as his opener caught goalkeeper Maximilian Mbaeva cold at the near post.
Not even a water break helped revive the home side. They were 2-0 down by halftime after captain Matome Mathiane conceded a penalty which was breezed in by Majoro.
With in form Daylon Claasen pulling the strings in midfield Wits always looked good value for more goals. It should have been 3-0 had Mhango kept his composure when put through early after the restart.
Defensively the Students were kept alert by the probing of Yusuf Jappie and Jabulani Shongwe in midfield but little got past Buhle Mkhwanazi, Nazeer Allie and Thulani Hlatshwayo at the back.
When they gifted Abafana Bes’thende a penalty for Mkhwanazi’s tug on Lerato Lamola, ex-Wits striker Knox Mutizwa had his kick blocked by Darren Keet midway through the second half.
They were fortunate to get another spot kick from “Mr Referee” Victor Gomes after an infringement by Hlatshwayo. This time Mzava thundered in the shot to lend respectability to the score and make for a tense finish to the game.
It ended with passions running high as James Keene and Jabulani Shongwe were sent off for Wits and Arrows respectively for a bit of shoving in optional time.