It wasn’t their most convincing display, but a 1-0 Absa Premiership win over Bloemfontein Celtic at the Bidvest Stadium allowed struggling league champions Bidvest Wits to finally climb out of the relegation zone.
A James Keene penalty after half an hour was enough to decide what was an edgy league encounter in Johannesburg on Friday night.
The early stages of the game were somewhat scrappy as neither side was able to retain possession for sustained periods or create clear-cut openings on goal.
It was from the penalty spot that the breakthrough came, James Keene putting Wits ahead on 31 minutes by comfortably beating Celtic keeper Patrick Tingyemb after a somewhat bizarre hand-ball by Mpho Maruping.
Maruping was also sent off for his effort, which saw him blatantly handling five yards out from goal even though Tingyemb seemed to have had a free kick covered.
The game remained evenly contested after half time, Phunya Sele Sele having an effort on goal through Lantshene Phalane, who was unable to beat Darren Keet from range, before Mbhazima Rikhotso was denied a penalty appeal after going down under a Daylon Claasen challenge in the Wits box.
The home side also had opportunities, but they couldn’t add to their lead as Vincent Pule’s near-post shot saw saved by Tingyemb 25 minutes from time before Lehlohonolo Majoro just failed to get on the end of a tempting cross by Claasen.
Keet came under increasing pressure in the Students’ goal in the closing 10 minutes of the match and had to make a couple of saves, although nothing more than routine, in order to keep the lead intact.
The best chance for an equaliser came in the 87th minute when Celtic winger Deon Hotto did superbly to bring down a long pass and turn on goal, only for the Namibian to lose his cool in front of goal and drag the shot wide, with that going the visiting side’s last real chance at claiming a point.
The result leaves Gavin Hunt’s side in 13th spot, three points above the drop zone, although he was less than pleased with the manner of the victory:
“I think it was out worst performance this season. Heavy legs, our passing let us down and we couldn’t get out of first gear. But it’s not how we play, it’s about getting the three points and getting up the table. You can see we lacked the confidence, one step at a time,” Hunt said.