Goodbye AFCON, hello PSL
Kaizer Chiefs' Siphiwe Tshabalala (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Elated, South African-based Nigerians will hardly be keen to hear “last orders” on the Africa Cup of Nations party, but domestic attention now shifts with a snap of the fingers to the Absa Premiership which returns to service on Tuesday.
The league has been in recess since December 19, when the 2012/13 programme went just beyond the midway mark, enabling supporters of the 16 clubs to unite in Bafana Bafana zeal for the SA-staged AFCON.Gordon Igesund
’s charges produced a roughly “par” performance at the tournament, reaching the quarter-finals before succumbing on penalties to Mali, although most of us were left none the wiser as to whether the national side will be good enough to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
But Bafana’s ongoing uncertainty will do nothing to dim passions for the remaining 14 rounds of PSL activity - especially as the
Soweto juggernauts, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, are currently locked in a largely two-way battle for supremacy.
Defending champions Pirates are a mere one point behind Chiefs, and the big two return to action this week against respective, mid-table opponents.
The Buccaneers entertain once-supreme SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday (19:30), whilst Chiefs have an earlier opportunity, on Tuesday, to at least temporarily stretch the lead to four points when they tackle under-performing Mamelodi Sundowns (only four wins from their first 16 fixtures) at Loftus.
In the first-round meeting much earlier in the season, ‘Downs were beaten 2-1 by the Amakhosi, primarily because of a six-minute burst in the second half which saw goals for the home side from Siyabonga Nkosi
and Kingston Nkhatha.
The earlier SuperSport-Pirates encounter, meanwhile, was a goalless stalemate.
The third-placed surprise packages of the season thus far, Platinum Stars, entertain Bloemfontein Celtic at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Wednesday - they are four points adrift of Chiefs and it will be interesting to see whether they can stay among the pace-setters.
There are still several weeks to go before the second-round derby between the Soweto giants, scheduled for the National Stadium on March 9 - if Chiefs and Pirates stay neck and neck, the game could be a definitive, “six-pointer”.
First round spoils between them were shared 1-1 in early December.
Meanwhile the scrap to avoid relegation will only intensify at the wrong end of the table over the next few weeks.
Worryingly for Capetonian enthusiasts, the only two Premiership sides from the region, Ajax Cape Town and Chippa United, occupy two of the bottom three berths as the season resumes.
Will the near-unthinkable happen, and both go down?
If that were to occur, it would represent a depressing change from only some three years ago, when the city boasted three PSL sides in Ajax, Santos and Vasco da Gama, and the first-named team finished as 2010/11 runners-up.
The 2012/13 campaign ends on May 18, when all 16 sides will be in action simultaneously, in line with modern etiquette.
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