Despite the guarantee that the DStv Premiership trophy will stay at Mamelodi Sundowns’ Chloorkop headquarters for the fifth season in a row, there is still much to play for on the log table as the current premiership campaign draws to a close.
One of the slots still up for grabs, other than a heated relegation battle at the other end of the table, is second spot. The runners-up to Sundowns will book their place in the 2022/23 Caf Champions League campaign.
Fourth-placed Kaizer Chiefs kept their hopes of being that team alive with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Nedbank Cup finalists Marumo Gallants on Tuesday night. Keagan Dolly, who has been one of the better players for the inconsistent Amakhosi, supplied the winning goal, blasting the ball into the net from outside the box in the 77th minute.
Chiefs, currently embroiled in a court battle with the Premier Soccer League (PSL), came into the match on a five-game winless streak – four of which were straight losses.
Ironically, two of those losses were the games (versus Golden Arrows and Cape Town City) that Chiefs missed due to a Covid-19 outbreak at their headquarters in Johannesburg during December. The PSL had agreed to reschedule the matches pending a Johannesburg High Court showdown between the two parties – which is slated for hearing on 10 May.
Speaking before the game, Amakhosi starlet midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo advised his teammates to move past their rotten run and focus on the remaining handful of matches.
“It’s not a case of anxiety,” said Ngcobo, who saw limited game time under the tutelage of recently fired Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter.
“It’s just a matter of us as players trying to get everything right, trying our best to win games. But we know in football sometimes things happen. But we need to be strong and forget what’s in the past and focus on what’s coming,” he added.
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His colleagues heeded his call and earned an important three-point haul in their pursuit of continental football next season. Of course, Royal AM in second and third-placed Cape Town City (leading Amakhosi by three and two points respectively) each have a game in hand over the Soweto giants.
The two sides play on Wednesday evening – taking on relegation-threatened Maritzburg United and Chippa United, respectively.
Best of the rest
Other than Amakhosi’s clash with Gallants, SuperSport United and Stellenbosch played out to a nil-all stalemate, which means Matsatsantsa remain in eighth place after going four games undefeated, while Stellies are sixth in the Premiership standings, four points adrift of the top three.
Seventh-placed AmaZulu moved to within a point of Stellenbosch after a 1-0 win over second-from-bottom Swallows, thanks to a Sphesihle Maduna strike.
Sundowns, on the other hand, are unrelenting. They secured their 18th win from 27 matches this season, beating Sekhukhune United 2-0, courtesy of goals by Aubrey Modiba and the sensational Peter Shalulile.
With his injury-time strike, Shalulile extended his tally at the top of the Premiership goal-scoring charts to 22 – eight more than Royal’s Victor Letsoalo, who is in second place.
The Namibian international also drew closer to the 17-year record of Collins Mbesuma, who scored 25 league goals for Chiefs in 2005. Shalulile needs just four more to topple that record and cement his legacy as one of the deadliest forwards yet to grace the PSL. DM