Wits crowned MTN8 champions

Bidvest Wits powered to an emphatic 3-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8 final at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday evening.

The fast-starting Clever Boys claimed their victory over the Brazilians thanks to a brace from Daine Klate and one goal by former Sundowns striker Eleazar Rodgers. It is the Johannesburg side’s first Top Eight title since 1995 (and a third overall) and their first major trophy under the leadership of coach Gavin Hunt, who took over at Milpark in 2013.

Wits got off to a flyer, with Klate opening the scoring with less than 40 seconds on the clock. The Clever Boys caught the Brazilians napping at the back and Klate was able to latch onto a poor clearance and fire home a right-footed shot from the edge of the box.

The Johannesburg side made all the play in the opening stages and nearly doubled their lead on 19 minutes when Nazeer Allie provided a fine cross from the right and Frank Mhango got his head onto the ball – the Malawian’s effort bounced just wide of the target.

Yet Wits didn’t have to wait long for their second goal, with Eleazar Rodgers netting in the 20th minute. Elias Pelembe provided a cross from the right which neither Klate nor goalkeeper Denis Onyango managed to meet cleanly, and the resulting loose ball was turned home from close range by Rodgers.

‘Downs struggled to win a foothold in the game in the first 45 minutes and offered little in attack, with their best moment arriving on the stroke of halftime as Keagan Dolly went direct for goal from a free kick but put his shot just wide of Darren Keet’s right-hand post.

The Brazilians made a double change at the start of the second half, sending on new striker Yannick Zakri as well as right-back Siyanda Zwane to shuffle the pack at both ends of the field. The Tshwane side certainly had more intensity and energy about their play.

They almost pulled a goal back in the 58th minute, with Tiyani Mabunda meeting a right-flank cross with a good header. However, his looping effort was well tipped over the crossbar by Keet.

Just as Sundowns looked to be building a head of steam, they were sucker-punched by a swift Wits counter attack just after the hour mark. The Clever Boys stole the ball on the halfway line, sent Rodgers clear down the right and his low cross was turned home on the slide by Klate to make it 3-0.

With just over 10 minutes to play Wits had a chance to make it 4-0, as substitute Sifiso Myeni put Rodgers in on goal, but the lanky striker was denied by a fine save from Onyango, who had come quickly off his line to close down the angle.

The goalkeeper’s efforts were in vain, though, with Wits able to see out the game comfortably and seal an impressive and deserved victory.

Bidvest Wits (2) 3 (Klate 1’ 62’, Rodgers 20’)

Mamelodi Sundowns 0

Wits: Keet, Allie, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi, Hlanti, Pelembe (Ngele 89’), Monare, Mlambo, Klate, Mhango (Myeni 69’), Rodgers (Malajila 81’)

Sundowns: Onyango, Mbekile (Tau 76’), Arendse, Nascimento, Langerman (S. Zwane 46’), Mabunda, Kekana, Laffor (Zakri 46’), Vilakazi, Dolly, Billiat