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08 Mar 2008 08:57
An 85th-minute own goal by Wits defender Wilson Shendzelani gave Premier Soccer League log leaders Ajax Cape Town an invaluable 1-0 victory at a rain-swept Bidvest Stadium on Friday night.
Shendzelani sunk to his knees and held his head between his arms at the final whistle after minutes earlier booting an unstoppable shot into his own net passed dismayed goalkeeper Sean Roberts in what was a calamitous attempt to dispossess Ajax substitute Granwald Scott.
An absorbing, significant encounter in the context of the championship race appeared to be heading for a draw—with Roberts, perhaps a little prematurely, named the player of the match for a succession of timely saves after only learning he would be required on the pitch in place of the injured Moeneeb Josephs 10 minutes before the kick-off.
But Ajax’s enterprise and persistence ultimately paid off in difficult conditions—although, it must be said, Wits were entitled to a fair slice of sympathy after surrendering three costly, perhaps unwarranted points.
The Students, in fact, had the ball in the net in the 15th minute after a floated deflection from teammate Noah Chivuta provided Mariaan Bantam the opportunity to beat goalkeeper Hans Vonk with a close-range, angled shot.
But referee Paolo Marques had other ideas in disallowing the goal and yellow-carding Chivuta for guiding the cross in the direction of Bantam with an out-stretched arm.
Three minutes later it was Ajax who almost scored when Russell Mwafulirwa’s 20m drive ricocheted off the post, but somehow failed to enter the net.
Then Roberts brought off the first of three stunning saves immediately afterwards when predator Nathan Paulse looked as though he would find the net with a point-blank header at the far post.
A dramatic, fearless clearance by Wits central defender Ashraf Hendricks continued to keep the scoreboard blank in the 35th minute, with Wits coming more into the picture in the second period and coming close to scoring after Vonk uncharacteristically dropped the ball on two occasions while saving long-range shots.
The result leaves Ajax four points clear at the top of the table.—Sapa
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