Ajax were looking to continue their fight for Premier Soccer League (PSL) survival as they hosted a revived and reenergised Wits.
Three points was a must for both sides as Wits too were looking to consolidate their position in the top eight, but for the Urban Warriors in particular, victory was a must if they had any hope of moving out of the dreaded relegation zone.
It would be a tough encounter especially with Wits’ more prominent players returning to the starting XI following their draw in the Caf Confederation Cup, last Friday.
Nonetheless, Wits’ top scorer Lehlohonolo Majoro would lead the line as Wits went in search of goals. Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral on the other end named a quality side with Yannick Zakri and Fagrie Lakay looking to cause the opposition defence a headache.
With so much at stake, the opening stanza of the clash was an open affair with both teams determined to open the scoring early. After Wits threatened Ajax’s goal early with a wayward shot Zakri had an early chance of his own as he sent his effort over the bar despite successfully weaving his way past several defenders.
It was really an end-to-end, thrilling encounter, but it would be the Students who came closest to opening the scoring early on. Ajax keeper Jody February needed to be at his best as he made a superb save to deny Vincent Pule with just over 20 minutes played. However, it was Ajax who would eventually break the deadlock in the 26th minute as Zakri showed his quality as he calmly put the ball into the back of the net after being played through on goal by Lakay.
The goal seemed to reawaken the Wits attack, and Pule found himself on the end of another opportunity, only for his effort to lack the necessarily venom to trouble the Ajax goal. The 27-year-old was proving to be a constant danger and could have found the equaliser before the break, but his header flew over the cross bar.
With time running out, Wits threw everything forward at the Ajax goal in hope of finding something before the interval, but when they did eventually manage to bypass Ajax’s defence, they were denied by February who made another smart stop to deny February.
The resumption of the second half saw Ajax come out of the half-time interval looking confident. Defender Tercious Malepe lined up an effort from the edge of the area which went just wide off target.
Wits were certainly under the cosh and Darren Keet needed to be sharp as the game approached the hour mark. The Bafana Bafana international did well to get his fingertips onto a low drive. At the other end though, Wits had a rare opportunity but this time Granwald Scott’s curling effort brushed the top of the net to the relief of the despairing February.
Wits coach Gavin Hunt would be pulling his hair out as Wits were guilty of squandering several opportunities. This time Majoro found himself on the end of a superb cross but his header fell comfortably into the arms of February.
In an effort to change things around, Hunt threw on Elias Pelembe early on the second half, and the Mozambican was proving to be a real threat as he continuously showed his skill down the line. But with just six minutes remaining, Ajax had arguably their best chance of the half to kill off the game, but Lakay would be left with his hands on his head as he somehow missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
Nevertheless, the youngster would not rue the missed opportunity as Ajax held onto victory, keeping their hopes of league survival alive.