Draw seals lead for Wits in standings
Brilliant Ritchie free kick ensures 1-1 outcome against Sundowns
A superb set-piece from Keegan Ritchie ensured a share of the spoils for Bidvest Wits as they held champions Mamelodi Sundowns 1-1 away in Atteridgeville and took a one-point lead in the Absa Premiership standings.
The left-footed free-kick dipped into the net from outside the area to equalise after Sundowns had gone ahead 12 minutes earlier through captain Hlompho Kekana.
It was a result that fairly reflected an absorbing encounter as Sundowns were held to a fifth draw in seven matches this season, although they are still unbeaten.
There was drama even before the start of play when Thapelo Morena had to pull out of the starting lineup after sustaining a thigh injury in the warm-up and then with 90 seconds gone, Terrence Dzvukamanja headed Ritchie’s inswinging left-footed free-kick against the Sundowns upright.
Wits pressed the champions and did not let them play at all in the opening 20 minutes.
New Zimbabwean signing Dzvukamanja had another chance from Ritchie’s corner in the 16th minute, but his effort went wide.
Another set-piece just before the half-hour mark saw Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo flick on the corner and Scottish striker Simon Murray come in unmarked at the back post, heading forcefully at goal only for Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango to make a strong save.
Onyango also did well to stop a driving Ritchie shot.
But Wits could not keep up the pressure as the heat began to take its toll and Sundowns were able to get in two firsthalf chances.
First, Toni Silva cut inside and shot at target only to hit his own man Gaston Sirino.
Then, some four minutes to halftime, Silva slipped the offside trap and was one-on-one with Wits’ keeper Darren Keet, who stuck out a leg to deflect the ball in a fine stop.
The missed opportunities were enough for Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane to take Silva off at halftime and bring on Phakamani Mahlambi, which injected much-needed energy into their performance.
But not before another good chance for the visitors as Wayne Arendse, who had a late callup to the team with Morena’s injury, made a shallow pass that Murray intercepted but Onyango again saved well.
At the other end, Lebogang Maboe had a chance after a one-two with Tebogo Langerman but his 51st-minute shot was poor.
But it could be seen that Sundowns were getting back into the game and their goal arrived five minutes later as Sirino got goal-side of Buhle Mkhwanazi and as he was tackled the ball fell for Kekana to tuck it away.
They looked to then finally get on top of Wits until giving away a free-kick in the 67th minute, which produced a classy finish.
Keet looked to handle the ball outside the edge of the area right in stoppage time, in a controversial finish, but the match officials did not give Sundowns a free-kick, rather letting the incident go.
Yesterday’s other results were: Lamontville Golden Arrows 1 Black Leopards 0, Baroka 0 SuperSport United 0