Mixture of surprises, tragedies characterises first half
Sundowns top of PSL's mid-term report card
It's been a mixture of exhilaration, surprise and tragedy in the 2020/21 DStv Premiership's first half. Sihle Ndebele and Neville Khoza look at how the teams have fared thus far.
AmaZulu have had an inspiring first half. Newcomers Luvuyo Memela and Augustine Mulenga revitalised the Durban outfit with nine goals between them. This is almost half of the side’s 21 league goals from 16 games. Usuthu are unbeaten in their last six league games, with three wins and three draws.
By virtue of winning their opening two fixtures, Baroka found themselves at the summit of the log in the first week of the season. But Bakgaga have to stop conceding goals in stoppage time if they are to stake a top-eight claim. The consistency of Goodman Mosele in the midfield has made it easy for Baroka to dominate games.
Leopards can easily be relegated if they don’t pull up their socks. Lidoda Duvha have a tendency of being energetic only when they play big teams, having defeated Orlando Pirates 2-0 and drawn 2-all with Kaizer Chiefs away. Incumbent Lehlohonolo Seema is Leopards’ third coach this season after Patrick Aussems and Dylan Kerr were sacked.
Before their crucial 2-1 win over SuperSport United last week, Celtic had only beaten TTM out of their last 11 games. The unavailability of skipper Ndumiso Mabena in some crucial games, due to niggling injuries, didn’t make things any easier for the side in the first round. They also reached the MTN8 final and were in the CAF Confederation Cup, adding big workload to a thin, unsettled squad.
Cape Town City
City had had more positives than negatives at midpoint of the term. Boasting free-scoring midfielders like Mduduzi Mdantsane and Thabo Nodada has seen City net more goals (27) than any other side in the league. Disappointingly, conceding 25 goals means the Cape side have leaked more goals than anyone else in the league.
Eight points from a possible 15 from their past five fixtures suggests Chippa are improving under Dan Malesela. The Chilly Boyz spent the better part of the season on the road, playing just only of four of their 15 games at home. Given that they’ve been travelling a lot, Chippa have done relatively well, especially as they too have changed coaches with Malesela replacing Seema in November.
Arrows are one of the season’s surprise packages so far. The Durban club are punching above their weight, with just one defeat in the first round. Bar their goalless draw against Pirates last month, Abafana Bes’thende have scored in all their league games. The emergence of a solid defensive partnership of Nkosinathi Sibisi and Trevor Mathiane has aided them a great deal.
Chiefs have found the going difficult in the first stanza of the campaign. At this stage of the season in the previous term Amakhosi were top of the log, but being unable to beef up their squad, among other factors, makes things a bit difficult this time around. Gavin Hunt has had to make do with a challenged squad and will have to be happy with a top-eight finish in the first half.
After Pitso Mosimane left for Al Ahly, Manqoba Mngqithi, Rulani Mokwena and senior coach Steve Komphela have steered the club in the right direction. The reigning champions remain unbeaten and look set for an unprecedented fourth title in a row, with Denis Onyango keeping 10 clean sheets. New singing Peter Shalulile, with six goals and four assists, has been the side’s go-to-man. They've also had to deal with tragedy following the perishing of Anele Ngcongca and Motjeka Madisha in car accidents.
Once again, Maritzburg are paying the price for letting go of their best players. They sold Richard Ofori to Orlando Pirates and never replaced him with the same quality. They recently sold another best player, Rushine de Reuck, to Sundowns. It's no surprise they are battling relegation even after letting Eric Tinkler go and replaced him with Ernst Middendorp.
With the quality in the squad after the arrival of Tyson Hlatshwayo, Deon Hotto and Richard Ofori, Pirates should be competing with Sundowns at the top, but inconsistency has been their enemy. Coach Josef Zinnbauer has also tinkered with this starting XI. Despite winning the MTN8, pressure will mount if they don't improve in the second round.
Despite strengthening the team, Stellies are struggling this season. They are not far from relegation, with only three points separating them from second-from-the-bottom Tshakhuma. But the fact that they don't have a panicky management should mean they have a capacity to turn things around.
It has been a good season so far for SuperSport. Having netted 12 goals already to be the league’s stop-scorer, Bradley Grobler is once again proving his importance to Matsatsantsa. They should be a strong threat to Sundowns as they have no cup or continental commitments.
Swallows have surpassed the expectations as they remain unbeaten. This is surprising given they signed more than 15 players after their promotion. However, they are fast becoming draw specialists, having recorded eight, the highest in the division so far.
The Rockets seem to be finding their feet under new coach Owen da Gama following a poor start which led to Dan Malesela's sacking. Under Da Gama, they have registered two wins, a draw and a defeat in four matches he has been in charge.
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila
TTM made headlines for wrong reasons under the previous owners. But since Sello Abram took over early this month, it seems there is some professionalism with players understood to have been paid last month. They have now recorded two successive victories, but still have a long way to overturn the damage caused by previous owner Masala Mulaudzi.
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