10-man Bidvest Wits beat nine-man Golden Arrows 4-3 on penalties in their MTN8 quarter-final at the Bidvest Stadium on Friday night, writes Dylan Appolis.
Gavin Hunt opted to hand debuts to new signings Slavko Damjanovic and Daylon Claasen, while former Bafana Bafana international Steven Pienaar had to settle for a place on the bench.
Clinton Larsen fielded a largely familiar outfit, with Lerato Lamola playing the lone striker role.
Abafana Bes’thende got off to a bright start and opened the scoring as early as the 11th minute when Lerato Lamola latched on to a pass from Siphelele Magubane, before finding the net with his head.
Arrows had another opportunity to extend their lead in the 16th minute as Siyabonga Dube unleashed a strike from distance, but his effort failed to trouble Moeneeb Josephs in the Wits goal.
However, Wits were dealt a blow in the 22nd minute when debutant Slavko Damjanovic was shown a red card after his boot caught the head of Siphelele Magubane, which left him unconscious.
Abafana Bes’thende then added their second of the night when Wayde Jooste set up Kudakwashe Mahchi, who slotted the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
At the other end, Wits were awarded a penalty after Nkanyiso Mnwengwe made a rash challenge on Vincent Pule. James Keene stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards out.
A second red card was produced in the match when Arrows midfielder Danny Phiri was sent off for a second bookable offence.
The second half got off to a quiet start as both teams looked to string a few passes together to get their momentum going.
The Clever Boys then found an equaliser in the 62nd minute when Reeve Frosler capitalised on a defence error from Arrows to set up Keene, who bagged his second of the night.
Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo nearly handed his side the lead for the first time in the match, but the defender could only head his effort wide of the post as the score remained 2-2.
With 10 minutes to play, the Students started dominating possession in the middle of the park.
In the first half of extra time, substitute Steven Pienaar did well to beat his marker to unleash a strike at goal, however the midfielder failed to hit the target with his effort.
Arrows had a chance to take the lead when Josephs was caught napping, but Mahachi was unable to capitalise after he was gifted a great opportunity at goal.
Wits thought they had scored the winning goal in the second half, but Frosler’s goal was ruled out for fouling the Arrows shot-stopper.
At either end, both Gavin Hunt and Clinton Larsen were dismissed from their respective dugouts and were forced to watch the rest of the match from the stands.
Abafana Bes’thende were then reduced to nine men in the 108th minute when Dude was sent off for headbutting Wits forward Gabadinho Mhango.
However, the scoreline remained locked at 2-2 until the end of extra time, which forced the match to penalties, with Wits coming out 4-3 in the shootout to advance to the next round of the competition.