COMMENT: Reassessing the PSL title race

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The Citizens may have the ascendancy in the PSL title race, but the race is destined to go down to the wire following their result in midweek

On Wednesday evening, Cape Town City hosted Bidvest Wits in an encounter that could have had dramatic consequences on the league title race.

However, the result ended even, as City rescued a 1-1 draw against the Students and continued to occupy pole position, with 46 points. Nonetheless, the question on everyone’s mind is how did the result at the top of the table, impact on the title race at large?

While the eventual Premier Soccer League (PSL) victor is anyone’s guess, what is certain is that the 2016/2017 title race promises to be one of the most tightly contested seasons in years. Wits and The Citizens, are being closely watched by Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns, and with only a handful of games remaining in the season, it is all still to play for.

Going into Wednesday’s mammoth encounter, Wits knew that a win would finally propel themselves ahead of the PSL new boys, but it was not to be, as Tshepo Gumede’s second half strike cancelled out Phakamani Mahlambi’s penalty.

Meanwhile, The Brazilians together with Wits hold a slight advantage over City and the Amakhosi, as they have two games in hand. Wits and Sundowns have only played 22 games, while Chiefs and City have played 24. Despite Eric Tinkler’s men remaining at the summit of the league standings, the biggest winners on the night were Sundowns and Chiefs. Although, the Soweto giants did not play on the night, they are firmly in contention as they remain only a point off the top.

For Sundowns’ on the other hand, victory in the Tshwane Derby was essential as their recent resurgence has seen them back amongst the chasing pack, despite squandering their games in hand. Pitso Mosimane’s men are currently in fourth position but are only two points behind the league leaders, and with a massive clash against Wits still to come, at the beginning of May, no one can write off the African champions. Nevertheless, the stalemate in the Mother City has kept the title race firmly open and brought about more questions than answers.

 

Steve Komphela and Hendrick Ekstein of Kaizer Chiefs

Can Kaizer Chiefs pick themselves up?

 

Another notable factor in the title race, is that none of the top four are in the Nedbank Cup. Chiefs additional fixture against SuperSport United in the Cup, took them all the way to penalties, and that could prove detrimental, particularly, at a time when the schedule is so highly congested. Going through extra time and the turmoil of losing on penalties will weigh heavily on them.

Speaking of Matsatsantsa, any hope of challenging for the title would have diminished after two successive defeats in the Tshwane Derby, but mathematically they are still in with a sniff, after falling nine points behind the log leaders. You'd expect them to focus on the Cups, locally and in Caf.

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With just over a month left in the season and a host of fixtures still to be played, the outlook of the title race could change immensely. So, despite neither team claiming the advantage at the top, it is not a train smash, as a lot can change in the upcoming games.

However, it must be noted that Gavin Hunt’s men would be disappointed, having not claimed the advantage. The Clever Boys’ final few fixtures will see them lock horns with SuperSport, Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs. As the saying goes, ‘to be the best you need to beat the best’, and in the case of Wits this could not be any truer.

Finally, it must be said that whatever may happen in the remaining games for City, what they have accomplished has been extraordinary and they have confirmed their place as a powerhouse of South African football, going forward. The fairy-tale is still not over despite the expectation to see them fall by the wayside, but their result on Wednesday, only proves further that they can keep up with the PSL’s big boys and perhaps, City can give South African football a Leicester City story of their own.

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