It’s been said that it is not how you start that is important, but how you finish that matters most, and this was the case with Kaizer Chiefs, who broke their supporters’ hearts on Saturday when they were pipped to the Absa Premiership championship by defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Brazilians made it a hat-trick of league titles after snatching it at the death on Saturday.
Chiefs have no one to blame but themselves after blowing the hefty 13-point lead they had at one stage in the campaign. It did indeed end in tears for the Amakhosi faithful, who were hoping to break their long run without silverware.
Chiefs were on top of the log table for almost the whole year, only to lose it on the last day of the campaign.
They went into their final league game against Baroka FC needing an outright victory to win the title.
Amakhosi took a well-deserved lead late in the first half through a Khama Billiat goal, but allowed Baroka to level matters in the second half through a Manuel Kambala header in the 58th minute.
Truth be told, though, Chiefs were not the same after the resumption of the campaign in the bio-bubble – winning only two of their eight matches, drawing three and losing in as many games.
Their undoing was conceding in all but one game, as they shipped in 10 goals in the process.
With Sundowns beating Black Leopards at Dobsonville Stadium, Chiefs needed to restore their lead to win it, but no matter how hard they tried, Baroka hung on for a much-needed point, which also secured their premiership status for another season.
This point meant Baroka swapped positions with fellow Limpopo side Leopards, who will now contest the promotional play-offs.
But credit should go to the champions, who fought gallantly until the end.
Despite a slow start in the bio-bubble, Sundowns believed that they could do it and, in the end, their never-say-die attitude saw them through.
They failed to win their first four matches, but bounced back to claim four victories out of five games, including beating Chiefs, which boosted their chance of retaining the championship.
Chiefs and Sundowns went into the final day of matches tied on 56 points, with the former having a better goal difference.
The Brazilians needed a win and a prayer for them to clinch it. In the end, Lebohang Maboe’s hat-trick was enough to wrestle the title away from Chiefs.
After bagging the Telkom Knockout in December, Sundowns are well on course to winning a treble this season, as they play Bloemfontein Celtic in the final of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday.
Yesterday’s results also confirmed the relegation of Polokwane City to the GladAfrica Championship.
After what happened this season, there will be question marks about coach Ernst Middendorp’s future at Chiefs.