Botes gives Wits draw in MTN8 semifinal

Henrico Botes struck a second-half equaliser to help Bidvest Wits to a 1-1 draw against Ajax Cape Town in their first leg MTN8 semifinal at Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch on Saturday evening.

The Clever Boys now head into the second leg with a valuable advantage. Toriq Losper opened the scoring for the Urban Warriors on the night.

Wits provided the early pressure, with Henrico Botes in the thick of the action. The Namibia international has made a positive start to the season and went close to the opener, shooting just wide following good work down the flank by Thulani Ngcepe in the eighth minute.

It would be Ajax though to open the scoring on the night through a former Wits man three minutes later. Losper's one-touch finish from Prince Nxumalo's through ball left Moeneeb Josephs with no chance.

Nxumalo proved to be a real thorn in the Wits defence, with the sturdy forward fending off three Clever Boys before seeing his shot fly just past the post with 26 minutes on the clock.

Wits' tally of seven corner-kicks within the opening half-hour highlighted their attacking intent, with Onismor Bhasera blazing his shot from outside the area just wide.

The visitors continued to press for the equaliser in the final exchanges of the half and should've levelled the scoring through forgotten man Ngcepe in the 36th minute.

Elias Pelembe did well to keep the ball alive, with his cross flying over Anssi Jaakkola, but neither Botes nor Ngcepe could capitalise from close range.

Ajax successfully navigated through the final few minutes of the opening stanza to head into the much warmer changing rooms at the break a goal to the good.

It was not a night for pretty football, with the wet and windy conditions, combined with the narrow pitch, making for a congested and physical affair.

Gavin Hunt introduced Sibusiso Vilakazi and Vincent Pule on the hour as he looked to change things around, with the duo adding more flair to the Wits line-up.

The second half finally produced a shot at goal in the 74th minute following good work down the flank by Bantu Mzwakali. The midfielder burst down the left before feeding Nxumalo, who, in turn, set-up Riyaad Norodien - the winger saw his effort glance the outside of the post.

The miss proved pivotal in the context of the game, with Botes grabbing the equaliser soon after.

Ajax failed to clear their lines and with Aidan Jenniker blindsided, Botes poked home from close range to the frustration of Roger de Sa and his technical team.

Franklin Cale missed a late chance as Ajax failed to capitalise on their chances, with the game ending all square after the first leg.

The return fixture is set for August 30 at Bidvest Stadium.

Ajax Cape Town (1) 1 (Losper 11') Bidvest Wits (0) 1 (Botes 75')

Ajax: Jaakkola, Lolo, Mobara, Coetzee, Jenniker, Mdabuka, Mzwakali, Scott (Graham 64'), Nxumalo, Losper, Norodien (Cale 89')

Wits: Josephs, Allie, Hlatshwayo, Klate (Pule 60'), Pelembe, Botes (Patel 90+1'), Nhlapho, Bhasera, Ngcepe (Vilakazi 60'), Motshwari, Ntshangase