Gift Motupa came off the bench to snatch an unlikely victory for Bidvest Wits at home to Bloemfontein Celtic at Bidvest Stadium on Wednesday evening, as the Clever Boys scored twice in the last ten minutes to win 3-2 in an Absa Premiership classic.
The result moves Wits to within 11 points of Kaizer Chiefs at the top of the table, and Gavin Hunt’s side still have three games in hand on Amakhosi.
Hunt gave new Cameroonian strikwer Bienvenu Eva Nga his first start for Wits, as he continues to look for the prolific striker that could really spark the Clever Boys’ title surge.
Wits’ other new signing, former Kaizer Chiefs defender Lorenzo Gordinho, not yet available to play, sat in the stands, where he was was warmly greeted by Celtic COO Khumbulani Konco – Gordinho, of course, spent a year on loan at Phunya Sele Sele in 2018.
There wasn’t much that was friendly about the two sides on the field, however, as the tackles flew in from early on, with Wits incensed by a 10th minute challenge by Tshepo Rikhotso on Deon Hotto, and more so that the referee did not even issue a yellow card.
Wits took the lead just three minutes later, Deon Hotto cutting open the Celtic defence with a fine pass for Elias Pelembe, whose cut back found Nange on the edge of the box. There was still plenty of work to do but the Wits midfielder thumped a brilliant shot past Jackson Mabokgwane and in off the underside of the bar.
Wits almost conceded straight away, as goalkeeper Ricardo Goss, the Man of the Match against Mamelodi Sundowns last week, inexplicably passed an attempted clearance straight to Ndumiso Mabena, but the Celtic striker could only fire over the bar.
Pelembe was booked in the 19th minute for a late tackle on Mabena, with the Wits bench furious at the inconsistency shown by the referee.
Mabokgwane then did well to stop a fierce drive from Hotto, and at the other end, Goss made some amends for his earlier error, with an excellent save to tip away a shot from Victor Letsoalo.
Wits should really have gone two goals up three minutes before the break as Hotto broke a dreadful Celtic offside trap, but instead of passing to Eva Nga, he opted to shoot from a tight angle, and his shot was smothered by Mabokgwane.
Celtic were left screaming for a penalty on the stroke of half time, as Mabena played a lovely one-two and went down under a heavy challenge in the penalty area, but the referee waved away the Bloemfontein side’s appeals.
Wits came out looking the stronger side again at the start of the second half, and Terrence Dvukumanja was inches wide with a header from Pelembe’s corner in the 48th minute.
It was Celtic, however, who levelled in the 52nd minute, as a cross to the back post found Menzi Masuku, who forced his shot past Goss.
With Wits looking tired after their exploits in Cairo over the weekend, Hunt brought on Haashim Domingo to replace Dzvukumanja just after the hour mark.
The Clever Boys were then dealt a blow as goalscorer Nange was forced off with a bad-looking injury, with Thabang Monare eventually replacing him. Before Monare came on, however, Domingo gave the ball away in midfield and Lestoalo put over an excellent chance for Celtic.
But Celtic did go in front in the 77th minute, as Masuku tricked his way down the right, and Andile Fikizolo, just seconds after coming on the pitch as a substitute, rifled his cross past Goss.
Mabokgwane was called into action again a minute later, tipping over Pelembe’s ambitious free kick, but the Celtic ‘keeper could do little in the 81st minute, as Domingo’s effort deflected past him.
Domingo then lashed a shot just wide as Wits pressed for a winner. And they got it in the 84th minute, Pelembe’s free kick met by the head of Motupa, who had arrived on the field at the same time as Fikizolo. Mabokgwane saved, only for Motupa to nod home the rebound.
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