JOHANNESBURG - Bidvest Wits won through to the semi-finals of the MTN8 after a 4-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Golden Arrows at the Bidvest Stadium on Friday night.
The score at full-time was 2-2 and it remained the same for the 30 minutes of extra-time played.
In an action-packed, drama-laden match, three players were red-carded and both coaches were also given marching orders.
Wits got off to a quick start, but it was Arrows who opened the scoring when a quick counter which resulted in Lerato Lamola heading home in the 11th minute. The Clever Boys looked to hit back immediately, but Vincent Pule hoofed his effort over the bar.
Wits were then dealt a heavy blow in the 20th minute when Montenegrin defender Slavko Damjanovic was red-carded on his debut for the club for what was deemed a studs-up, high-foot movement in a challenge with Arrows’ Siphelele Magubane.
With a key central defender off, Wits coach Gavin Hunt had no choice but to make the tactical change, taking off midfielder Granwald Scott and bringing on defender Bongani Khumalo to plug the gap.
With the Johannesburg team down to 10 men, it was no surprise when Durban-based Arrows took advantage to make the score 2-0 in the 24th minute through a fine goal from Kudakwashe Mahachi.
The action continued unabated, though, and just a minute later Wits were awarded a penalty when Pule was fouled in the penalty area. James Keene stepped up and easily converted the spot kick to make the score 2-1.
On the stroke of half-time, Arrows were also reduced to 10 men when Danny Phiri was shown a second yellow and sent for an early shower.
Wits came out firing in the second half, determined to get back on level terms. Pule had two opportunities to equalise, but the one he volleyed over and the other was foiled by some great defensive work from Arrows.
Arrows came under increasing pressure from the Clever Boys and it was only a matter of time before something had to give. And it did in the 61st minute when good work from Reeve Frosler created the opening for Keene to get his second and level the score at 2-2.
In a bid to snatch a winner, Hunt replaced Pule with striker Gabadinho Mhango in the 75th minute and the Malawian nearly scored with his first touch, but Arrows were able to desperately clear their lines.
Eight minutes later, the moment the PSL was waiting for came when former Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar was introduced off the bench for his Wits debut, replacing another overseas returnee, Daylon Claasen.
Two minutes before full-time, Frosler scored what looked to be a legitimate goal, but the referee disagreed and the Wits right-back’s effort was disallowed.
It finished at 2-2 and the game headed into extra-time. And, just to illustrate the action and controversy that characterised this fixture, both coaches – Hunt and Arrows’ Clinton Larsen – were sent off in the 105th minute.
Arrows finished the second half of the extra-time period with nine men after Siyabonga Dube was sent off in the 107th minute for head-butting Mhango.
African News Agency