Wits continue to improve with slender win over Celtic

James Keene of Bidvest Wits scores a penalty during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 match between Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic at Bidvest Stadium, Johannesburg South Africa on 19 January 2018.
James Keene of Bidvest Wits scores a penalty during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 match between Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic at Bidvest Stadium, Johannesburg South Africa on 19 January 2018.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Bidvest Wits love any three points they can get right now, no matter how they come by them, and a scrappy 1-0 Absa Premiership victory against a 10-man Bloemfontein Celtic on Friday night would have been no exception.

Wits scored from James Keene's 31st-minute penalty at Bidvest Stadium after Mpho Maruping took one for his team and had to handle on his line to keep out teammate Lorenzo Gordinho's goalbound header. Maruping received his marching orders.

Two well organised teams (Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane could have had a field day as a TV analyst) largely playing safety-first football were never going to make this match much of a spectacle. In truth it struggled even to be a monocle.

Wits tried to be their normal busy selves, though perhaps with the foot off the gas just marginally from the 1000-mile approach when they were trying far too hard in the disastrous first half of the season.

A little calmer, a little more circumspect, they took a fortunate goal, created a few more chances and gratefully accepted three more points as the slog of working off the bottom of the table continues.

Gavin Hunt's team went to 18 points and some brief respite at lower mid-table, depending on results to come on the weekend.

After an uneventful grind of an opening 25 minutes, Wits earned their opening goal.

Sifiso Hlanti's free-kick from in front of Celtic's area on the left was directed at Thulani Hlatshwayo at the right corner of the box. Gordinho got up to the intercepting header, but it skewed in the direction of the top-left corner of the centreback's own goal where Maruping had to swipe an arm to keep the ball out.

Referee Khulasande Qongco pointed to the spot, and red-carded Maruping. Keene stepped up and struck straight and high, Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb diving right.

For a coach with his team down to 10 men Veselin Jelusic's substitutions after the break were quite attacking - at 1-0 down they probably had to be. He brought on Menzi Masuku and Ndumiso Mabena for Tshegofatso Mabasa and Given Mashikinya, in forward for forward swaps.

Hunt responded with changes of is own just after the hour in a dying game. Thabang Monare came on as a central midfielder for striker Keene to shore up the advantage in the middle gained by Wits' extra player.

Elias Pelembe replaced Sifiso Myeni on the wing. The Mozambican brought a tiny spark to a game starved of oxygen, his piece of skill in the  middle setting up Vincent Pule to be free on the left, who shot strongly at Tignyemb.

A Wits team in full flow would have made more of Celtic being a man down. But the Clever Boys did open the vistors for some half-chances, Majoro skewing a strike off target.

Masuku's drive at the other end tested Keene, though might also have missed by a foot, as the game found a form of a pulse.

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