Down to the wire

2008-05-16 00:00

Supersport United stand on the brink of a deserved first Premier Soccer League title, but their progression to the R6 million first prize is by no means certain.

The M-Net-owned Pretoria team must overcome unpredictable Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free Staters’ Seisa Ramabodu stronghold this afternoon to be sure of the title.

Their rivals for the title, Ajax Cape Town, face Lamontville Golden Arrows in Umlazi. Ajax dropped two crucial points in their 1-1 draw against Santos at Athlone Stadium on Thursday night, but the race for the PSL crown is likely to go right down to the wire.

Ajax and SuperSport have modern, transparent administrative structures and the best youth programmes in the country. Either deserves to win the league title, having played outstandingly well. But then football is a cruel game, and there is only one winner.

It is not just the top teams whose hopes are riding on tomorrow’s final round of matches around the country. Six mid-table clubs are in contention to finish in the top eight and qualify for nest season’s SAA Supa8. At the bottom Thanda Royal Zulu and Black Leopards are separated by two points in the battle to avoid relegation.

SuperSport’s dangerman against Bloemfontein Celtic will be striker Katlego Mashego who has finished with a flourish after struggling for most of the season. His four goals as a substitute in SuperSport’s 4-2 defeat of Moroka Swallows were followed by the second goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Lamontville Golden Arrows.

Mozambican winger Elias Pelembe is a candidate for player of the year in his first season in the PSL, while Bongani Khumalo has been rock-solid in defence and looks a potential 2010 candidate.

For veteran goalkeeper Andre Arendse, a league title would be a significant achievement at the tail-end of a career that has seen him win the African Nations Cup and represent Bafana Bafana at two World Cups. The same could be said for his Ajax opposite number and long-time rival for the national team jersey, Hans Vonk.

Like Arendse, Vonk is a key performer and a valuable source of experience for his younger team-mates. After helping to steer Ajax to the Absa Cup trophy and fourth place in the league last season under Mushin Ertugral, Vonk has again provided the rock-solid foundation current coach Craig Rosslee has built on.

SuperSport were runners-up in the league twice under previous incumbent Pitso Mosimane, and Ajax have finished in second place once, under Gordon Igesund in 2003/04.

A draw will be enough for SuperSport to take the title. A defeat, and victory for Ajax against Arrows, would see the Capetonians take the trophy on goal difference.

Top scorers: 14 — James Chamanga (Moroka Swallows); 12 — Diyo Sibisi (Free State Stars); 11 — Erwin Isaacs (Santos), Katlego Mashego (Supersport United), Sandile Ndlovu (Moroka Swallows); 10 — Excellent Walaza (Orlando Pirates), Serge Djiehoua (Thanda Royal Zulu); 9 Eleazar Rodgers (Santos), Dumisani Ngwenya (AmaZulu), Nathan Paulse (Ajax Cape Town); 8 — Siyabonga Mkhwanazi (AmaZulu); 7 Thembinkosi Fanteni (Ajax Cape Town).

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