PSL / 21 September 2019, 10:51pm / ANTHONY MCLENNAN
CAPE TOWN – Bidvest Wits beat Orlando Pirates 4-3 in an unforgettable league encounter at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night.
After an absorbing first half had seen the score deadlocked at 1-1, a stunning second half provided no less than five goals, with Pirates twice coming from behind to make it 2-2, before the Students went 4-2 up and then the Soweto side netted again late on.
It didn't take long for the tone to be set as the Buccaneers were left shell-shocked with just two minutes on the clock when Deon Hotto curled a beauty of a free kick into the net, giving goalkeeper Joris Delle no chance at all.
The Sea Robbers responded well to the setback and were close to equalising 10 minutes later when Augustine Mulenga looked to curl one into the top corner, only for Wits keeper Brandon Peterson to make a full length diving save to tip the ball over.
Bucs went on to enjoy long spells of dominance in terms of ball possession, but all too often they failed to turn their superiority into clear chances on goal.
Finally though – in first half added time, the breakthrough came and it was in spectacular fashion as Xola Mlambo dinked a ball towards Tshegofatso Mabasa, who turned beautifully after controlling the ball before netting with a thumping volley into the top corner.
After the restart, Pirates again looked to stamp their authority on proceedings.
But they were soon in for a setback as Hotto won the ball deep in his own half in the 50th minute, and then sprinted half the field before laying the ball off to Mxolisi Macuphu, who did superbly to steady himself before smashing a shot from 18-yards into the top corner.
Once more though Pirates came fighting back and when former Wits striker Gabadinho Mhango, just on as a substitute, sent in a low cross for Musa Nyatama, the game was back on level terms as the latter expertly slid in a low shot past Brighton Mhlongo - who had replaced the injured Peterson.
The game continued to be played at a breathless pace, and there was yet another world class goal to savour as Cole Alexander picked up on a loose ball 25-yards out and sent a viciously dipping volley into the bottom corner, putting the Students ahead for the third time on the night, in the 68th minute.
Five minutes later and another stunner looked on the cards when Fortune Makaringe let rip from distance - but it wasn't to be as Mhlongo came to Wits' rescue with a brilliant diving save.
At the other end, Zitha Macheke should have wrapped up the game for Gavin Hunt's team, but he pulled his shot wide from a great position as his coach was left remonstrating on the sidelines.
Just moments later though the fourth goal did come for Wits when Haashim Domingo cleverly played in Phathutshedzo Nange, who beat Delle with a low shot at the near post in the 82nd minute.
Incredibly though there was still more to come as Pirates showed they weren't dead and buried, when Mhango arrived at the back post barely a minute later to volley in from a tight angle, despite Mhlongo getting a strong hand to the ball.
Sensing the comeback, Pirates came pouring forward and it took an outstanding intervention from Wits defender Macheke to prevent Mabasa from scoring, in what was the last real chance of the match.
The result sees Wits moving second on the table, a point behind Polokwane City, with Pirates five points off the summit.