Ajax Edge Wits In Tense Shoot-out

A nippy Newlands Stadium hosted an intense Absa Cup clash between Ajax Cape Town and Wits University which the hosts fought hard to win 5-4 on penalties on Saturday afternoon.

The desire to win the Absa Cup quarterfinal was visible as early the 2nd minute when Wits hard-man Benson Mhlongo opened the scoring.

The Students skipper Charles Yohane swung in a free kick from the right and Mhlongo beat his marker, and goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, with a well struck header to make it 1-0.

Wits were content to counter-attack as Ajax piled on the pressure but to no avail as Wayne Roberts together with centre-back Neil Winstanley and co. were - as usual - solid in defence.

Chances were few as the hosts only had four shots on goal - one wide - while the antiquated Joburg team only had three attempts at Josephs goal.

It was not until the 46th minute that the Urban Warriors would find a breakthrough.

Left-back Brett Evans swung in a free kick from the right which the notably taller Wits defenders could not clear as Mulekelayi Kanku rose to head the ball past a flat-footed Roberts.

With both teams having had good chances to score referee Daniel Bennett signaled for half-time.

The score level at 1-1.

The hosts kicked off the second half and charged at the Clever Boys determined to get a goal, or even a winner.

Ajax striker Wilfred Mugeyi and Winstanley were contesting a classic battle with Mugeyi giving the lanky defender a torrid time.

Mugeyi outpaced Winstanley but his stinging left-footed shot from within the 18-yard area was well saved by Roberts who stopped the ball from going over the line for a corner.

Referee Bennett pointed to the corner flag and the appalled Roberts received a yellow card for his protests.

The resultant corner did not produce the desired result.

Coach Gordon Igesund brought on Grant Igesund - who is becoming known as a super-sub - and despite receiving a yellow card within a minute Igesund Junior showed his prowess as a striker when he received a ball from Alfred Phiri, turned past his marker and blasted his shot from 26-yards out which caught Roberts off-guard in the 84th minute.

The Wits keeper, stunned, parried the ball for a corner and it appeared as if Ajax's hunger to win was renewed.

Wits replied two minutes later when Sipho Mngomezulu tested Josephs on the other end.

After neat play by his team mates Mngomezulu received the ball on the edge of the area and attempted to chip Josephs who just managed to palm the ball over the cross bar.

Coach Igesund's boys had the last chance to march into the semi's though.

Brent Carelse, who had a storming game, stepped up to face Roberts from the penalty area when ref Bennett judged full back Anton Greyling to handle Carelses' attempted cross.

Carelse, a former Hellenic player, struck the ball well and beat Roberts but his powerful shot rebounded off the cross bar in the 90th minute and Roger De Sa's boys were still in the game.

Ajax and Wits then entered a thrilling 30 minutes of extra time but neither side could beat either of the Capetownian keepers.

The best chance falling to Nathan Paulse who, whilst man marked, turned in the box but his tame shot was easily caught by Roberts.

The referee signaled for the penalty shoot out.

Former Cape Town Spurs team mates Roberts and Josephs stepped to the penalty area where the latter faced Gareth Devine who slotted coolly past Josephs.

Reagan Noble missed for the Students while Carelse, Bageta Dikulu, veteran Ernest Mtwali, Evans and Phiri converted their spot kicks to send the Ajax faithful into raptures.

Ajax have now advanced, with Manning Rangers, to the second edition of the Absa Cup semi-finals.

Read more about Ajax Cape Town on the web site of the club.