Today’s final day of PSL action can’t possibly compare to what we saw last weekend, can it?

2012-05-19 00:00

“HOW do you put the cork back in a champagne bottle? Ask a Manchester United fan.” Red Devil supporters will have had a hellish week of putting up with jokes of this nature — all referencing the way the Premier League title slipped through their fingers with almost the last kick of the season.

United fans have, over the years, been pretty comfortable in a position privileged enough to allow them to be the ones dishing out these types of jokes. Not anymore. Fergie’s charges ended the season trophyless while City, Chelsea and Liverpool all have something to show for their efforts. But regardless of where their allegiances lie, last weekend’s drama will forever stand out in the minds of football fans. You couldn’t have written a better script, and we will probably never see another title race run that close.

If today’s final day of PSL fixtures serves up anything remotely resembling what we saw in England last weekend, then we’d best be prepared to hold our breath.

As was the case in the Premier League, the PSL has come down to a two-horse race. Orlando Pirates, two points clear of Moroka Swallows, travel to Durban where they will meet Golden Arrows at a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium. It is expected that only 5 000 of the 50 000 crammed into the 2010 World Cup venue today will be supporting the home side, which is sure to help Bucs in their bid for a second successive domestic title.

Swallows are in Pietermaritzburg and will not be able to challenge for the title unless they defeat United today. United played a significant part in deciding last season’s title winners, too. A draw at Ajax on the final day of the season effectively ended the Cape Town side’s championship dreams while Pirates were the beneficiaries. Pirates will be hoping United do them another favour today, though if they manage to beat Arrows then what happens in Pietermaritzburg becomes academic.

It’s hard to see Pirates slipping up. Theirs is a squad drenched in star quality and players who can change a game. Interestingly enough, Swallows have the superior goal difference so a draw for Bucs will not be enough if Gordon Igesund’s side does the business in PMB.

It can be tricky. As we saw before City’s miracle last week, when things aren’t going well the crowd grows frustrated and the minutes start ticking by at a seemingly furious rate. Pirates will desperately want an early goal to ease the tension for the players and fans. For them, the equation is simple: win the game and you win the league.

Swallows have been magnificent this season and deserve to be in the hunt of the final day. Victories in big games and at important times have turned what most critics thought was merely a good start to the campaign into something with longevity. It is a feather in Igesund’s cap to have outdone Chiefs, SuperSport, Sundowns and Ajax this season. Even if Pirates is a bridge too far.

But those of us who were watching last weekend will think twice before trying to call this one.

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