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COMMENT: SuperSport United are out of the PSL title race

8:32 AM GMT 21/04/2017
Stuart Baxrter on SuperSport United bench
United will finish on 58 points provided they win all their remaining games, and they will need some big results to go their way to win the PSL title

Sitting on 37 points going into the Tshwane Derby clash against Mamelodi Sundowns on Wednesday night, SuperSport United needed to win to keep their PSL title hopes alive.

However, they failed to get the better of their neighbours, and the league title is now a four-horse race going into the final matches of the season.

Matsatsantsa, despite boasting a plethora of quality and experienced players, were outclassed by an equally capable side, and like last season, the Nedbank Cup is their only hope of silverware this term.

Stuart Baxter made wholesale changes to the side that was hammered 5-0 last week, and opted for a more cautious approach, probably to try and avoid conceding early.

The old guards held their own and matched Sundowns pound for pound for the better of the game, and the encounter looked to be headed for a dull draw, which wouldn’t have helped SuperSport United in any way.

Jeremy Brockie was expected to mesmerize the Brazilians, more so after bagging a hat-trick in the previous game against Liberian side Barrack Young Controllers (BYC) in the Caf Confederation Cup.

But the New Zealand international had a minimal impact, and hardly troubled the Sundowns defence. He has been SuperSport’s source of goals in recent years, and if he doesn’t score, the team finds it difficult to win games.

To add to their already existing problems was the absence of Thabo Mnyamane. The attacker is still serving his two-match suspension, and this somehow affected the balance of the team, meaning Baxter didn’t have the luxury of selecting his best players for this important encounter against Sundowns.

Kingston Nkhatha then limped off the pitch with a suspected injury midway through the second half, and that obviously gave Sundowns hope, while it messed up Baxter's game plan.

Some would point to Baxter’s tactics or Sundowns’ brilliance and dominance on the day, but cracks were there way before the encounter, and SuperSport United only have themselves to blame for their team’s poor run of form.

The performance of the team started to decline the day they gave Baxter permission to engage in talks with the South African Football Association (Safa) over the possibility of taking over the Bafana Bafana coaching job.

At the time, the club gave Safa a week to conclude talks with Safa, but they made it crystal clear that the 63-year-old mentor would only be available at the end of the season. But we all know that it was always not going to take a week to finalise everything for a job as big as coaching Bafana.     

Talks continue to drag on, and SuperSport United are suffering as a result. The players don’t know if Baxter is going or staying, and the coach himself doesn’t know if he’s still in the running for the job – everyone is confused.

The only people who know what’s going on are Safa officials and SuperSport management, and it’s only fair to say the level of commitment has dropped - from the technical team itself down to the players. 

SuperSport United may shift some of the blame to Safa for destabilizing the team by expressing their desire to sign their coach midway through one of their best seasons since the beginning of the PSL era, but they could have easily turned them down.

United were on a 19-match unbeaten run, but then the wheels came off soon after Safa approached them for the services of Baxter. They lost to Baroka FC, and lost twice to Sundowns.  

Perhaps, they should have kept this whole saga under wraps until the final decision was made to avoid confusing and demoralizing the players. This has clearly affected them, and consequently, they have paid the price of falling further behind in the title race.