Bidvest Wits became the first team to advanced into the Telkom Knockout quarter-final after claiming a 1-0 victory over Free State Stars at Goble Park on Saturday, writes DYLAN APPOLIS.
Gavin Hunt’s men came into this encounter having last played at the start of October when they fought back to earn a 1-1 draw with Mamelodi Sundowns in the Absa Premiership.
Meanwhile, Luc Eymael’s side secured maximum points in their previous encounter in the league when they beat Bloemfontein Celtic 2-0 in their last competitive fixture before the international break.
The visitors got off to the best start possible when they took the lead inside 38 seconds after Scottish striker Simin Murray fired the ball homr on the turn to make it 1-0.
Stars goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare came to his sides rescue in the fifth minute when he proved a fine save to deny Cole Alexander low drive.
Murray should have made it 2-0 two minutes later after he won the ball in a good position and with Sangare struggling, but the striker blazed the ball on to the wrong side of the post.
The Clever Boys dominated proceedings as the game went on and nearly doubled their lead after 23 minutes when Murray played a pass into the path of Deon Hotto, who was on goal, but he blazed his effort over the target.
The home side had their first real chance in the 31st minute after Goodman Dlamini had a free header from a corner, but Keet managed to deal with his header.
Wits managed to hold on to their 1-0 lead over Stars as the game went into the half time interval.
The Students picked up where they left off in the first half when they forced Sangare into making a great stop after Haashim Domingo set up Mxolisi Macuphu, who fired an effort at goal, however, the linesman raised his flag for offside.
Dlamini should have levelled matters for the host in the 54th minute, but his effort crashed off the woodwork with Wits keeper Darren Keet well beaten.
Ea Lla Koto started to gain more confidence as the game went on and saw more possesion of the ball in the middle of the park.
Judas Moseamedi had a great opportunity to equalise the game after 72 minutes when he turned into the box to create a shooting opportunity for himself before blasting his effort over the target from close range.
Hunt opted to make a change of his own two minutes later when he introuduced Lehlohonolo Majoro to replace goalscorer Murray.
Masina came inches wide of levelling matter in the 78th minute when he unleashed a strike from distance, but his effort crashed off the woodwork.
The home side made their second substitution of the game as they went in search of an equaliser when they brought on Congolese midfielder Cesaire Gandze to try and snatch an equaliser.
At the other end, Wits introduced veteran Vuyo Mere, who won the TKo with Platinum Stars in 2013, to replace Mxolisi Macuphu.
Stars pressed forward in the closing stages of the game as they went in search of an equaliser, but Wits managed to hold on to their 1-0 lead until the final whistle to advance to the next round of the Telkom Knockout.
Here is how the two side’s line-up:
Bidvest Wits XI: Darren Keet, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Robyn Johannes, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Lehlohonolo Nonyane, Deon Hotto, Thabang Monare, Cole Alexander, Haashim Domingo, Simon Murray, Mxolisi Macuphu
Subs: Keegan Ritchie, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Brighton Mhlongo, Vuyo Mere, Gift Motupa, Elias Pelembe, Terrence Dzvukamanja
Free State Stars XI: Badra Ali Sangare, Nyiko Mobbie, Rooi Mahamutsa, Tshepho Tema , Patrick Phungwayo, Sinethemba Jantjie, Mpho Maruping, Makhehlene Makhaula, Goodman Dlamini, Harris Tchilimbou, Linda Bhengu
Subs: Cesaire Gandze, Eleazar Rodgers, Sifiso Mbhele, Olivier Kwizera, Bangali Keita, Judas Moseamedi, Sibusiso Masina