/ 25 February 2010

SuperSport retain title despite shock loss to Wits

Supersport Retain Title Despite Shock Loss To Wits

SuperSport United were crowned Absa Premiership champions for the third successive season despite losing 2-1 to struggling BidVest Wits at Atteridgeville Super Stadium on Wednesday night.

Nerves and stage fright got the better of the defending champions who won the title in the past two seasons on goal difference after slipping up at the same stage in both previous seasons.

United were presented with their medals and trophy by the PSL CEO Kjetil Siem after the match and also received the R10-million winners cheque.

United were helped by a stunning upset from bottom club Jomo Cosmos who defeated United’s only title challengers Sundowns 2-0 at
the Rand Stadium on Wednesday to finally end the Brazilians’ slim title hopes.

United go into their final match of the season away to AmaZulu in Durban on March 6 as champions knowing that even if they lose to Usuthu and Sundowns win their final fixture of the season against Golden Arrows at the Super Stadium, they cannot be overtaken at the top of the league.

Downs started the night four points behind their Pretoria rivals and had to win both remaining matches to stand any chance of pipping United for the title.

Emotionally draining
United coach Gavin Hunt was emotionally drained at the final whistle and did not jump and celebrate when referee Charl Theron blew for fulltime knowing that his side had retained their crown.

United players looked nervous going into Wednesday’s match needing only two points from their remaining two matches. For Wits it was the best win of the season and saw the club finally claw out of the relegation zone.

The Super Stadium jinx struck again near the start of the match when the water sprinklers behind the goal being defended by Wits came on and were about to flood the pitch. Referee Theron was forced to stop the match in the fourth minute while the ground staff switched off the sprinklers. Last week the floodlights failed during the Sundowns/Moroka Swallows match.

United came off second best in a lively opening half. The home side’s out-of-sorts striker Anthony Laffor blasted wide in the 18th minute when SuperSport had the Students under pressure.

However, Wits rocked their hosts when Mark Haskins silenced the partisan 5 000-strong crowd with a thunderous strike from 25 metres that beat keeper Emille Baron hands down in the 27th minute. Haskins hit his shot perfectly and the ball cannoned off the crossbar into the back of the net and must be a candidate for goal of the season.

But the champions fought back and showed why they are the best side in the country in the 34th minute. Wits keeper Francis Chansa did well to block successive shots from Brian Umony and Brent Carelse.

Then United winger Daine Klate sent over a pin-point cross for Ugandan international Umony who had the home supporters on their feet when he managed to head home the equaliser at the third attempt to notch his first goal of the season.

The goal inspired Umony who came close to making it 2-1 in the 38th minute but his bullet flew past the upright.

However, United were lucky to go into the change room at halftime level as Wits could have scored twice in stoppage time.

Champions under pressure
The first shot was a free header by Fabricio Rodrigues that sailed over the cross and minutes later former SuperSport striker
Calvin Kadi shot over the crossbar from close range when it looked easier to score than miss.

Then the SuperSport faithful were stunned into silence for a second time when the home defence failed to clear a cross from Rodrigues and Kadi managed to slot home the winner from close range in the 68th minute.

The goal stung United and they fought back, but it was too little too late. Chansa pulled off a stunning save from a thunderous shot from Anthony Laffor in the 74th minute and two minutes later substitute Thabo Mongalo headed just wide of the upright.

SuperSport’s defeat could have been more embarrassing had Kadi’s 83rdminute strike not bounced off the upright with the United defence in disarray. Haskins shot wide when he had the United goal at his mercy three minutes later.

United piled on the pressure and the Wits defence had a few narrow escapes. But at the end of the night it did not matter as United had done enough during the season to be deservedly crowned champions for a third successive season.

In Wednesday’s other Premiership matches, Kaizer Chiefs beat Mpumalanga Black Aces 2-0, Moroka Swallows edged Platinum Stars 1-0, AmaZulu beat Santos 1-0, Ajax Cape Town managed a 1-1 draw against Golden Arrows, while Free State Stars and Maritzburg United eked out a goalless draw. — Sapa