‘Title race still wide open’

2011-02-28 00:00

THE Premier Soccer League title race is wide open and there are still any one of four teams who can win it, said Orlando Pirates coach Ruud Krol after watching his team snatch an injury-time share of the spoils against Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

In a dramatic finish, Thulasizwe Mbuyane was left among a host of players unmarked in the four minutes into injury time to head home from a corner and beat Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who had come off his line and missed, to make the final scoreline 1-1.

Earlier, Chiefs had taken the early lead in a period of domination in the first half-hour when Kaizer Motaung Junior got up to score off his shoulder from Jimmy Tau’s stunning cross in the 11th minute.

A highly contested match in front of a South African record crowd of 92 500 managed to provide plenty of entertainment despite the appalling standard of the FNB pitch, which had been dug up for the U2 concert and only recently relaid.

Chiefs’ early superiority waned quickly and Pirates went on to dominate probably two-thirds of the match and were unlucky not to get more than a draw. The Buccaneers had a clear penalty overruled with 20 minutes to go when striker Ndumiso Mabena had his legs kicked from under him by Amakhosi defender Thomas Sweswe.

Dangerous Ajax Cape Town had briefly taken the PSL lead with a 1-0 victory against Free State Stars on Friday night, but Pirates, who extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches, regained it on goal difference thanks to Saturday’s draw.

Fourth-placed Mamelodi Sundowns kept themselves in the title race with a 3-0 win over Wits University in Atteridgeville on Saturday night.

“We have eight matches to go and there are still four candidates who can win the title,” Bucs coach Krol told Football365.co.za.

“Ajax are always dangerous and have been playing well but nothing will be decided until the end of the season.”

Krol was pleased that his consistent, focused Buccaneers, who have shown determination to at times grind out results in their unbeaten run, managed to fight to preserve their record.

“You need some luck, but my team plays until the end and the fighting spirit was exceptional,” the 1970s Dutch playing star said.

“I think we started the game a bit nervous, but it happens sometimes in derbies. Chiefs scored the first goal from an overlap when we were sleeping but that was their only moment.

“We started to play football in the second half and get crosses in to put pressure on their defence. I think we deserved it and maybe even more than a draw.”

While the match had been billed as a potential title decider, Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic — who saw his side drop from second to third, two points behind Pirates and Ajax — said there is still a long way to go in the season.

“Nothing was going to be decided today,” Vermezovic said.

“Even if we had won it would still have not been over so we have to look forward to our next match and try to forget the last two minutes [against Pirates].

In yesterday’s matches, a 90th-minute headed goal earned relegation-threatened Moroka Swallows a last-gasp 1-0 win against Platinum Stars at Dobsonville Stadium.

Up to that stage a drab confrontation appeared heading for a certain draw. The victory preserved second-last Swallows’ gap above last-placed Mpumalanga Black Aces at seven points, and closed the gap with third-last Maritzburg United to three points.

Aces, in their first match under new coach Mark Harrison, were surprise 2-1 winners over Lamontville Golden Arrows at the Puma Rugby Stadium, thanks to a brace scored by striker Mpho Maleka.

Bloemfontein Celtic thrashed defending champions SuperSport United 5-0 at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium.

 

Friday: Ajax Cape Town 1 Free State Stars 0, Maritzburg United 1 Santos 0

Saturday:Mamelodi Sundowns 3 Wits University 0, AmaZulu 3 Vasco Da Gama 3, Kaizer Chiefs 1 Orlando Pirates 1

Yesterday: Bloemfontein Celtic 5 SuperSport United 0, Moroka Swallows 1 Platinum Stars 0, Mpumalanga Black Aces 2 Lamontville Golden Arrows 1

 

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