Mark Gleeson

Perfect timing for PSL decider

2009-04-21 13:55
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson
It might be a stroke of genius by the fixture compiler or just good fortune, but the timing of the match-up between SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates later this week is perfect.

In effect, Thursday’s match at Loftus Versfeld will decide the destiny of the championship, ensuring that, yet again, we are treated to a thrilling finish to the Premier Soccer League.

Although mathematically, third placed Kaizer Chiefs still have a chance to win the title, practically it is a two-team race.

Last year, SuperSport United only managed to shake off Ajax Cape Town on the last day of the season but in Pretoria on Thursday, they might be able to put the seal on a second successive championship ... with two matches left to play.

It has been a remarkable year for the club, who did not sit back on their laurels at the end of the last campaign but went out and bought very cleverly and have managed to earn the begrudging admiration of the rest of the PSL with their playing style and their attacking acumen.

The pre-season addition of Antony Laffour, Glen Salmon and Brent Carelse came after some very good business, which saw Pa Gaxa and Katlego Mphela leave to Mamelodi Sundowns for a record-busting R5 million fee. SuperSport United have since made more from the sale of Katlego Mashego to Pirates.

The club SuperSport have been smart operators and deserve their success but are well aware any slip up could see Pirates come through to take the title.

Thursday night’s odds must be with champions – they are effectively at home, have a six point lead (albeit having played one match more) and know that even if they draw they will almost surely win the league.

The Buccaneers have two things on their side. Momentum and the psychological advantage of having thoroughly outplayed SuperSport when the two met in early March in the first round of the Nedbank Cup.

The Buccaneers have looked motivated and very structured in the key games this year, notably the derby against Chiefs in Mmabatho and the 2-0 win over SuperSport in the Nedbank Cup.

Pirates started the season slowly but the one-man show that is coach Ruud Krol has proved the value of giving a good trainer time to get his ideas across.

It is difficult to predict the way the game will go but if Pirates win on Thursday, then I think there is enough momentum to take them to the championship, even with a catch-up game to complete which is oftentimes a disadvantage rather than an advantage.

Pirates have much tougher final set of fixtures too. They have the derby against Chiefs at Ellis Park on May 2 and then are away at Ajax Cape Town before finishing at home to AmaZulu.

SuperSport United’s last two matches are against Lamontville Golden Arrow and Santos.

A second championship for SuperSport would be a triumph for a professional modern approach to the game … both on and off the field.

If Pirates win, its a massive boost overall for South African soccer, where much of the buzz and hype disappears when the Chiefs and Pirates are doing badly.

Both ways the game in this country wins … and we spectators get yet another edge-of-the-seat finale.

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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