Title race turns upside down

2011-03-17 00:00

THE Absa Premiership title race took yet another enthralling turn yesterday evening as Ajax Cape Town leapfrogged into top spot with a brilliant 3-0 victory over long-time leaders Orlando Pirates at Newlands Stadium.

Two goals from Khama Billiat and a fine strike from George Maluleka secured the emphatic victory for the Urban Warriors, who have ended Bucs’ unbeaten record away from home this season and handed them a first defeat in the league since November last year.

The first half went the way of the Cape team as their tenacity and effort proved too much for Pirates to handle.

The opening stages saw the Cape side quicker to the ball as the likes of Granwald Scott dictated midfield while Thulani Serero and Khama Billiat were a constant threat in attack.

Brent Carelse should have done better with a 24th minute chance after he was played in by George Maluleka, but some poor control enabled Senzo Meyiwa to close down the angle.

A minute later the Urban Warriors took a deserved lead when their speed of thought and passing in the Bucs box created an opportunity for Billiat, who obliged by hammering in a low shot at the near post.

Ajax weathered an early second half storm before breaking clear down the right through Serero, whose blistering pace left Bucs for dead, before passing to Billiat, who found the top corner with a composed finish and it was 2-0 to Ajax after 54 minutes.

Just a minute later, the Cape side made it 3-0 when Maluleka struck with a sublime left-footed shot from the edge of the area.

The Soweto side enjoyed a fair amount of possession in the last 25 minutes, but were too flat in attack and were stifled over and over by a determined home defence, despite two chances for Mark Mayambela.

Bucs have dropped to third on the standings thanks to Mamelodi Sundowns’ 1-0 win over Vasco da Gama at Lucas Moripe Stadium. It was an unimpressive performance from the Brazilians, but Nyasha Mushekwi’s early goal was enough, and, at this stage of the season, results are all that matter.

Pirates was not the only team to lose unexpectedly: Bloemfontein Celtic lost for the first time in the league since December last year, going down 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Moroka Swallows.

The result also represents the first league defeat at Seisa Ramabodu for Phunya Sele Sele this season.

The Birds will be delighted at their impressive away win, but frustrated that it has not improved their standing.

The Soweto club remains second-from-bottom after Maritzburg United claimed a 1-0 home win over Platinum Stars in what was caretaker coach Ian Palmer’s first game in charge since the departure of Ernst Middendorp.

AmaZulu played to a sixth successive draw in a lively game with Santos that ended 2-2 at the King Zwelithini Stadium. Usuthu have now gone ten games unbeaten in the league, but only two of those results have been victories. Santos, meanwhile, have now gone nine games without a league win.

In the afternoon games, Bidvest Wits continued their good form with a thrilling 3-2 home win over Golden Arrows, while the match between Mpumalanga Black Aces and Free State Stars in Witbank was postponed due to heavy rains.

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