23 May 2011
One of the most famous sayings in sport is attributed to New York Yankees’ legend Yogi Berra, who said: “It ain’t over till its over.” And so it proved on a thrilling final day of the PSL season as Orlando Pirates came from behind to snatch the title from Ajax Cape Town on Saturday.
Heading into the final round of matches, three teams were in with a shot at claiming the honours. Ajax were in the pound seats, leading Pirates, in second, by two points, while Kaizer Chiefs were three point adrift and needed the two front-runners to trip up to lift the silverware.
When the dust had settled on a fascinating day’s action, the Buccaneers were the champions on goal difference over Ajax, with Chiefs only a point behind them and Mamelodi Sundowns two points off the pace.
Pirates’ 60 points trumped Ajax’s 60 by four goals on goal difference. Interestingly, Chiefs, in third, had a better goal difference than either team, and Sundowns, in fourth, had the best goal difference in the league, further underlining how tight the title race had been.
Ajax will be gutted to have missed out on the title after managing only one point from their last two matches in which there were six points on offer. A 4-0 defeat at the hands of Chiefs in their penultimate match was regarded by many as a temporary setback as they faced Maritzburg United, who had barely escaped relegation, in their final game, with home ground advantage.
The Urban Warriors appeared on course for the title, and a fairytale ending for coach Foppe de Haan in his last match before retiring, when they took lead in the 43rd minute through Khama Billiat.
However, less than 20 minutes into the second half their chances of finishing top of the table looked decidedly rocky after Maritzburg United took a 2-1 lead.
Gert Schalkwyk pulled the visitors level after goalkeeper Hans Vonk made a mess of a back pass and eight minutes later, in the 63rd minute, Maritzburg were awarded a penalty when a shot by Schalkwyk struck Nazeer Allie’s hand. Diyo Sibisi netted against his former club to seriously dent their title hopes.
The Urban Warriors pulled one back in the 87th minute through Sameehg Doutie. It wasn’t enough, however, as Pirates claimed a 2-1 win over Golden Arrows at the Orlando Stadium.
The game was decided only six minutes from time by a stunning long range shot from Isaac Chansa.
The Sea Robbers had taken the lead in the 38th minute through Bongani Ndulula, but it lasted only three minutes. Collins Mbesuma, a nemesis for Pirates in the past while with their great rivals Chiefs, headed past Senzo Meyiwa to level matters.
Pirates’ coach Ruud Krol told the club’s website that the victory was one of the finest moments of his coaching career. He said: “From my experience the teams who are on top of the log heading into the last match never win their last matches and that happened today. It was good for us. Of course what it means is that I’m happy and I’m happy for my players.
‘We deserved it’
“I told my players that we deserved it because we worked hard. They worked hard for 11 months.
“I saw my team this season bouncing back after some big defeats and we were coming back in the race for the championship and only big teams can do that and that is the consistency that you need to win something.”
Pirates’ victory and title suddenly leaves the club with the possibility of a season for the ages. They have won the PSL title and earlier in the season claimed the MTN 8 crown. Next up, they face First Division side Black Leopards in the final of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday. Win and they will secure a sparkling treble.
Chiefs, Sundowns victories
Chiefs finished their season with a victory away from home, downing AmaZulu 2-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Fourth-placed Sundowns completed their season with a 3-1 win over fifth-placed Bloemfontein Celtic at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Black Aces, who will be playing in the First Division next season, ended their campaign with a 2-0 home loss to Moroka Swallows. Vasco Da Gama, meanwhile, thumped fellow Cape Town club Santos 3-0. Despite the win, they still finished second from bottom on the log and will go into the promotion/relegation playoffs.
In other results, BidVest Wits and Platinum Stars drew 1-1, while three-time champions SuperSport United finished their season on a high with a 1-0 win at Free State Stars.
Jomo Cosmos, after only a year in the First Division, are headed back to the PSL after beating Bay United 5-4 in a penalty shootout at the Makhulong Stadium on Sunday.
Cosmos topped the Inland Stream of the First Division by a healthy 10 points over Pretoria University, while Bay United edged Thanda Royal Zulu by a single point in the Coastal Stream.
- 2010/11: Orlando Pirates
- 2009/10: SuperSport United
- 2008/09: SuperSport United
- 2007/08: SuperSport United
- 2006/07: Mamelodi Sundowns
- 2005/06: Mamelodi Sundowns
- 2004/05: Kaizer Chiefs
- 2003/04: Kaizer Chiefs
- 2002/03: Orlando Pirates
- 2001/02: Santos
- 2000/01: Orlando Pirates
- 1999/00: Mamelodi Sundowns
- 1998/99: Mamelodi Sundowns
- 1997/98: Mamelodi Sundowns
- 1996/97: Manning Rangers
Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material