Absa Premiership

Title-chasing pack close in on Wits

Gavin Hunt (Gallo Images)
Gavin Hunt (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Leaders Bidvest Wits were held by 10-man Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates scored four goals on Saturday as the South African Premiership title race intensified. 

Wits and Sundowns drew 1-1 in Johannesburg while the Pirates spectacularly ended a seven-match winless run by thrashing AmaZulu 4-1 in nearby Soweto.

Pirates replaced defending champions Sundowns in second place on goals scored with both clubs just two points behind Wits, who are seeking a second title in three seasons.

Cape Town City stayed fourth, five points behind the leaders, thanks to a 3-2 home victory over bottom club Maritzburg United.

Fifth-place SuperSport United had a run of three consecutive league victories halted when they were surprised 2-1 at home by lowly Baroka near Pretoria.

Billed as a potential title decider, all the drama in the Wits-Sundowns showdown was packed into the first half before a capacity 5 000 crowd at Milpark Stadium in a university campus.

Former Wits star Phakamani Mahlambi put 2016 African champions Sundowns ahead after seven minutes and Gift Motupa levelled on the half-hour mark.

Sundowns were reduced to 10 men six minutes before half-time when veteran centre-back Wayne Arendse fouled Motupa and received a straight, last-defender red card.

While Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane argued that Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento was closer to the goal than Arendse when the incident occurred, big-screen replays suggested otherwise.

"We deserved to win," said Wits coach Gavin Hunt, "only to let down again by our passing in the attacking third of the pitch.

"Sundowns were very compact when defending - especially after the red card - and this forced us to go wide and put in a lot of crosses."

Mosimane said: "Wits had a lot of the ball and that was fine because we were tactically superior to them. While we obviously wanted to win, it was more important not to lose."

Pirates bounced back from missing a penalty in a midweek loss at SuperSport by scoring twice late in the opening half en route to a convincing win at Orlando Stadium.

The Buccaneers quickly levelled through Zimbabwean Kudakwashe Mahachi after falling behind on 17 minutes and Luvuyo Memela and Zambian Justin Shonga netted for a 3-1 half-time lead.

Ben Motshwari completed the rout six minutes from time to keep alive Pirates' hopes of a first Premiership title since 2012.

Captain and defender Thamsanqa Mkhize was among the Cape Town City scorers while Thato Madigoe netted 12 minutes from time to earn Baroka maximum points.

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