Chiefs rule as battle for second hots up
There is nothing like a hot streak to ensure championship success and Kaizer Chiefs laid the foundation early for this season’s title-winning performance with a significant run of form. A total of 18 league matches without defeat from the start of the campaign, combined with a remarkably stout defence (only 12 goals conceded so far this season in 27 games, a near-record), put Chiefs as much as 15 points ahead of the chasing pack at one stage.
And, although they threatened to implode after the mid-season holidays, their listing ship was righted and four successive victories culminated in their coronation on Wednesday as they secured the league crown with three games to spare.
In the end it will be recorded as a comfortable annexation, although just six weeks ago there was every chance that big-spending Mamelodi Sundowns could, for a second successive year, come from behind and jostle a jittery Chiefs from the top.
Ironically, it has been Sundowns who have imploded. They have now gone three matches without a win in the league – not only ceding their title but opening the door for two other clubs to bump them out of second place.
African Champions League
The battle for the runners-up berth now takes over as the leading plot in what is left of the Premier Soccer League season before its conclusion on May 10.
Finishing second means not only significant prize money but, more importantly, a berth in next year’s African Champions League on which Sundowns have set their sights.
But Downs’ tired-looking and insipid performances of late are allowing Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates an opportunity to usurp them. Should Sundowns lose their next league game – they host Chiefs in Atteridgeville on Wednesday – then we have the potential for another absorbing contest.
There is also the battle for the top eight places next season, with a particular eye on whether Maritzburg United can finally achieve their long cherished aim of finishing in the top half of the table; plus, of course, the relegation tussle.
Two successive victories, which were their first of the year, have lifted Free State Stars significantly clear and left AmaZulu and Moroka Swallows six points adrift.
The last-placed side is automatically relegated to the national first division, but the team finishing second from bottom still has a chance to ensure survival in the post-season play-offs.
AmaZulu have already made a gallant effort to try to claw their way back from a seemingly hopeless position and might yet engineer a miracle escape. Swallows are attempting the same under new coach Craig Rosslee, but may not have the resources they need. The possibility of their first ever relegation is stark.