Rain is often seen as a blessing in Africa (they could certainly do with some down Cape Town way right now), but it certainly didn’t bless the Clever Boys or Amakhosi with extra ability to hit the back of the net, as a spate of chances went begging in the final minutes.
With all that, the standard of play in the the Absa Premiership in 2018 has certainly improved on the paucity of the first part of this season, which produced an abundance of extraordinarily dull football.
This year, we have seen some cracking encounters, and a downpour of wonderful moments, from Orlando Pirates’ quite brilliant 3-1 win at Mamelodi Sundowns, to three stunning goals out of three in Masandawana’s 3-0 win over Platinum Stars, to Leonardo Castro’s stunner as Kaizer Chiefs found a way to finally beat Baroka, to the assist-of-several-seasons from Percy Tau in a riveting game at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, to a quite extraordinary six-goal thriller on Sunday between Platinum Stars and Chippa United. Long may it continue.
Going back to Tau’s assist, it deserves special mention because it is the most glorious moment I have seen in South African club football this season.
He starts from only just inside the opposition half, and as he enters the penalty area there seems to be nowhere for the young attacking star to go, as he is closed down by City keeper Sage Stephens. The awareness to not just spot Khama Billiat in the area, but also to be able to flick the ball up and execute the pass to the Zimabwean was quite simply world-class. Billiat’s volleyed finish was not far off either.
What added to the moment too was that it effectively provided a key victory in the race for the Absa Premiership crown. Masandawana are now five points clear of Orlando Pirates at the top, with a game in hand, and seven clear of City. Kaizer Chiefs slipped up with that draw at Wits and while special mention does have to go to Luc Eymael, and the quite staggering job he is doing at Free State Stars, it is impossible to see Ea Lla Koto lasting the course with the squad of players they have.
Sundowns had shown signs of frailty in the title race in 2018, with losses to Polokwane City and the Buccaneers following on from a loss to City before the end of 2017. However, they have a team and a coach that know very well how to win a league title, and they should really do so again this season.
Pirates have done superbly to emerge as Sundowns’ closest rivals this year, and Milutin Sredojevic and Rhulani Mokwena have done a masterful job in revamping the team in the New Year. They look a real threat going forward, but at the back there are still concerns, and I find it hard to see Pirates finding the consistency to chase down Pitso Mosimane’s men.
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