Chiefs and Sundowns leave fans guessing in final sprint for title

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Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns challenges Reeve Frosler of Kaizer Chiefs during their Absa Premiership match. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/Gallo Images/BackpagePix
Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns challenges Reeve Frosler of Kaizer Chiefs during their Absa Premiership match. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/Gallo Images/BackpagePix

SPORT


With three games to go and the Absa Premiership entering the business end of the season, there is no time to blink - both at the top and bottom of the table.

The title race is a two-horse race between Kaizer Chiefs and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

The two giants are poised to battle it out to the death, while five teams at the bottom segment are slugging it out for survival.

As the jitters begin to set in for Chiefs, question is whether or not the Amakhosi can hold their nerve at the top of the table until the final day of the 2019/20 campaign on Saturday.

Coach Ernst Middendorp and his side have struggled to fire since play resumed in the bio-bubble three weeks ago.

It was inevitable that the chasing pack would catch up with them at some point and it was Sundowns who eventually closed the gap on a Chiefs side that has been atop the log standings for almost 350 days.

For the record, Chiefs were holding a 13-point advantage at some point late last year but one win, two draws and two defeats in their last five matches have left them vulnerable.

On the other hand, it appears as if coach Pitso Mosimane and his team are now picking form just at the right time having also struggled to find the rhythm in the bio-bubble.

It is ironic that Chiefs face Bidvest Wits this afternoon, an opponent that blew a convincing lead in the title race last season, allowing Sundowns to clinch the crown on the final day.

Surely Middendorp’s side wouldn’t want to suffer a similar setback as Wits and the German tactician did indicate that “the stakes are high”.

After dropping 10 points since the resumption of the campaign, Chiefs supporters are probably singing Mary Mary’s hit song “Can’t Give Up now”.

It is ironic that Chiefs face Bidvest Wits this afternoon, an opponent that blew a convincing lead in the title race last season

All the Amakhosi require in the run-in to the R15 million first prize is to beat Wits, Chippa United and Baroka and they will be crowned champions.

But it is easier said than done as Chiefs’ form of late does not inspire confidence to a level that even some of their faithful are about to throw in the towel.

Read: Super Sunday – Chiefs, Sundowns, Swallows and Ajax chase the winner’s medal

It was clear in their 1-0 loss to Sundowns midweek that the team missed the aggression of Samir Nurkovic upfront.

The Serb has completed his one-match suspension and Middendorp would have him back today to put to the test a Wits defence that has conceded just two goals in their last five matches.

On their part, the Clever Boys are eager to bow out in a dignified manner since they will cease to exit at the end of this season after their Premiership status was bought by Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila.

Wits coach Gavin Hunt said after their 1-1 draw with Bloemfontein Celtic midweek that his players “have been absolutely magnificent” despite the team squandering their chance in the title race.

Nonetheless, Hunt’s side will still have a say in the destination of the crown, as well as in the relegation scrap in their pursuit of a top three finish.

Interestingly, Sundowns face three Limpopo sides that are all fighting for survival.

The Brazilians will take on Baroka this afternoon, then Polokwane City on Wednesday before concluding the season against Black Leopards on Saturday.

Hunt’s side will still have a say in the destination of the crown, as well as in the relegation scrap in their pursuit of a top three finish

Any of the three sides is in danger of going down and will fight tooth and nails to regain their Premiership status.

On Saturday, in a battle of relegation candidates, AmaZulu recorded a much-needed 1-0 victory over Black Leopards at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

The victory moved Usuthu to 13th on the log.In the fight for a top-three finish, Orlando Pirates also registered their first victory in the bio-bubble when they beat SuperSport United 2-1 at Emirates Airline Park to narrow the gap to just one point behind United. 

Also on Saturday, Highlands Park and Maritzburg United drew 1-1 at Dobsonville Stadium.

Meanwhile, Leopards and Polokwane City will face Wits in their two remaining games of the season.

This is in addition to the two Limpopo sides also having outstanding fixtures against Sundowns.

As much as Mosimane is targeting maximum points against the basement dwellers, the Brazilians also need goals to deal with their five-goal difference with Chiefs.

Amakhosi will be praying for better outcomes in their remaining three games so they can continue the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

But, as Mary Mary’s song goes, they have come too far from where they started and nobody told them the road would be easy.

And they will be singing that they don’t believe He brought them this far to leave them.


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Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
Daniel.Mothowagae@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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