Mamelodi Sundowns crowned premiership champions with three games to spare
The Brazilians became the first team since the advent of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in 1996 to win the league title for four successive seasons and they wrapped it up in domineering style as they still have three matches to play this season.
It is also worth noting that they clocked an unassailable 60 points at the top of the standings after toying and beating an out of sorts 10-men SuperSport United 3-1 in the Tshwane derby at Loftus on Wednesday.
With an highly impressive win that was secured through first half goals from Lebohang Maboe‚ man of the match Aubrey Modiba and Themba Zwane‚ Sundowns ensured that the championship race will not go to the last day of the campaign.
This league title success is a huge achievement for the coaching trio of Manqoba Mngqithi‚ Steve Komphela and Rulani Mokwena as there were numerous doubters when they were asked by club owner Patrice Motsepe to assume the reins following irrepressible former coach Pitso Mosimane's departure to Egyptian powerhouses Al Ahly in September last year.
The trio changed things around‚ including the unpopular move of freezing out captain Hlompho Kekana‚ and showed faith in new recruits likes Peter Shalulile‚ Kermit Erasmus‚ Mothobi Mvala and Gift Motupa.
There were also significant contributions during the campaign from players like Denis Onyango‚ Ricardo Nascimento‚ Lyle Lakay‚ Rivaldo Coetzee‚ Andile Jali‚ Zwane‚ Gaston Sirino‚ Maboe‚ Lesedi Kapinga and Sphelele Mkhulise.
What is left in this campaign is for AmaZulu to fight for second place and earn a maiden Champions League place‚ and for Golden Arrows‚ Orlando Pirates‚ Swallows and SuperSport to battle it out for the third spot that comes with a place in the Confederation Cup.
Sundowns have only lost one match‚ to Kaizer Chiefs‚ in 27 matches this season and they will be hard-pressed to avoid defeat in their remaining matches against Swallows‚ Bloemfontein Celtic and Cape Town City to end the campaign as near invincibles.
The only regret for Mngqithi‚ Komphela and Mokwena will be the fact that they failed to make a mark in the cup competitions as they were unable to go all the way in the MTN8‚ Nedbank Cup and the Champions League.Things didn’t look good for SuperSport from the beginning of this encounter as they lost attacker Guily Manziba after he was sent to an early shower by referee Victor Gomes inside seven minutes for a reckless tackle on Mkhulise.
With a man down‚ SuperSport coach Kaitano Tembo was forced to change the playing system and he sacrificed midfielder Sipho Mbule after 18 minutes for Ghampani Lungu‚ but the move did not have the desired results.
And with the numerical advantage‚ Sundowns reshuffled their pack with Maboe coming in for Mkhulise‚ and the move paid dividends as the substitute later opened the scoring.
On the half hour mark‚ SuperSport nearly opened the scoring but Bradley Grobler was denied by an alert Onyango after he intercepted a poorly played back pass by his namesake and defender Brian.
Maboe proved to be an inspiring substitution as he opened the scoring for Sundowns with only a few minutes on the field when he connected with a delivery from Aubrey Modiba.
Three minutes later‚ the Brazilians took firm control of the match when Modiba’s long pass missed the intended target Erasmus and flew into the empty net of Ronwen Williams for his first of the season.
Sundowns put this match beyond doubt three minutes before the half time break through a close range tap-in from the magnificent Themba Zwane‚ his tenth of the season‚ and with Modiba turning supplier this time.
SuperSport defender Keenan Philips handled the ball in the box but Zwane‚ who has been nominated for Midfielder of the Season‚ Player’s Player of the Season and Footballer of the Season categories‚ was denied by Williams.
United got a consolation through a thunderous goal by Teboho Mokoena five minutes from time‚ but the damage was already done as they remain sixth on the standings with two matches remaining.In the dying minutes of the game‚ defender Brian Onyango had to take the goalkeeper’s gloves after an injury to Dennis Onyango‚ but there was no time for him to be tested as the Brazilians crossed the line for their eleventh overall title in the PSL era.