Mark Gleeson

PSL race best in decades

2011-02-14 08:57
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

Ten rounds of matches to go now and a four-way title race for the championship. Brilliant! It could be the best finish in decades, destined to go right down to the wire.

A glance at the fixture lists has several must-win-at-all-costs games ahead on the schedule, not least the derby at Soccer City the end of this month.

There will surely be a few more dramatic twists and turns before the season finale in May and every chance it could all be decided on the last day of the campaign.

Of the four real contenders left, Mamelodi Sundowns have the most recent experience of winning the title. Ajax Cape Town have none although they have been runners-up twice.

Orlando Pirates at the top of the standings have the inside track and a run of six successive wins is territory they have not been in for more than a decade. Continue like this and they’ll be unstoppable. But the bitter and morale-deflating memory two successive defeats to Kaizer Chiefs in their last two meetings hang heavily ahead of the next derby on February 27.

Just who will win depends on a combination of factors, but consider the following:

Squad size:
Sundowns have the most resources and depth, although ironically their key player Katlego Mphela is now on strike. For seasons now they have been able to attract great talent with their unlimited cheque book but most of their spending has come since 2007 when they were last champions

Big match temperament:
Chiefs have proven they can handle the pressured occasions better and revel in front of huge crowds. That is why they are cup kings. But they might yet regret all the points they have conceded against supposedly inferior opposition in matches where their players did not put in the necessary application.

Best football:
Ajax are playing a delightful game at present, passing the ball to maximum effect. The tempo of their attacks is ground-breaking.

Physical strength:
Ajax are often bullied off the ball. Pirates are strongest of the for title chasers, Sundowns not far behind in the intensity of their challenges and the way they impose themselves on the game

By this stage of the season, there is little to choose between the teams. Ajax keep up the best pace to a game.

Individual talent:
Match winning talent like Siphiwe Tshabalala and Knowledge Musona is a huge asset in Chiefs’ armoury although when absent their reliance of such individuals is marked.

Pirates have made the best decisions this season so far, sticking to a front man backed up by two wide players, a man tucked in behind the front line and the midfield industry of Andile Jali and new discovery Oupa Manyisa.

Staying ability:

This will become evidence over the next two months. With the upcoming Nedbank Cup providing a potential distraction, focus on the title now is most necessary.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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