Downs, Chiefs' weekend defeats set up exciting Absa Premiership title chase
This past weekend saw another twist in the Absa Premiership title race as log leaders Kaizer Chiefs suffered a shock defeat against AmaZulu, while Mamelodi Sundowns' draw to Al Ahly signalled the end of their Caf Champions League campaign.
Sundowns started off the weekend fixtures with a second leg quarter-final Caf Champions League encounter against the Red Devils in hopes of turning around a two-goal deficit following their 2-0 loss in Cairo a week before.
However, Pitso Mosimane's charges were outfoxed by the Egyptian giants as Al Ahly held onto a 1-1 draw for a 3-1 aggregate score at a sold-out Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Three-hours later, Amakhosi kicked off their league tie against relegation-threatened Usuthu - and were expected to brush aside the KwaZulu-Natal side following their Soweto derby triumph - seven days prior against Orlando Pirates.
However, on the stroke of half-time, Usuthu's Bongi Ntuli netted the only goal of the match as AmaZulu guarded their slender 1-0 lead until the final whistle sounded.
Both Sundowns and Chiefs' defeats proved a detriment to their silverware-chasing campaign.
Sundowns' Champions League exit means Mosimane's obsession with adding a second star comes to an end for at least another year.
However, the silver lining in Saturday's loss to Al Ahly is that Amakhosi's defeat to AmaZulu allows Sundowns with a chance to fight for the Absa Premiership crown as the Brazilians are only seven points adrift of log leaders Chiefs with two games in hand.
Sundowns also have the opportunity to vie for the Nedbank Cup (their next match is against Highlands Park in the quarter-finals), so the Brazilians are not short of silverware options with two months of the domestic campaign remaining.
Chiefs only have the league to focus on as they were knocked out of the Nedbank Cup last month.
Across the pond, the much-watched English Premier League title is already spoken for as Liverpool are two victories from clinching their first title in 30 years with a 25-point lead over second-placed Manchester City.
Meanwhile, back home in South Africa, the Absa Premiership is about to get interesting and exciting for football enthusiasts.
Mosimane will be relentless in drilling the idea into his players that the league could be Sundowns' for the taking if they are to win their remaining 10 league games - and of those 10 matches, Masandawana are scheduled to face Amakhosi next month, which could be the title decider.
Despite Sundowns' two games in hand, Chiefs remain favourites to nab the crown - their first title in five years - as they are in the driving seat.
However, anything can happen!
Sundowns do have the experience to take it to the final matchday which could be the case this season.
The Brazilians have done it before, coming from the trenches, to claim the league crown.
During the 2013/14 season, Sundowns' hunger for silverware saw the Tshwane side come from behind and win the Absa Premiership with Amakhosi having to settle for runners-up after letting slip a healthy lead at the top of the standings.
Following their defeat to AmaZulu, Ernst Middendorp has already warned his charges, while Mosimane will no doubt be aware of what is at stake.
Buckle up, the season is about to go to down the wire!
KAIZER CHIEFS' REMAINING ABSA PREMIERSHIP FIXTURES:
Bidvest Wits (H) - Wednesday, March 18
Polokwane City (A) - Saturday, March 21
Bloemfontein Celtic (A) - Sunday, April 5
Stellenbosch (H) - Saturday, April 11
Mamelodi Sundowns (H) - Wednesday, April 15
Bidvest Wits (A) - Friday, April 24
Chippa United (H) - Wednesday, May 6
Baroka (A) - Saturday, May 9
MAMELODI SUNDOWNS' REMAINING ABSA PREMIERSHIP FIXTURES:
Stellenbosch (A) – Wednesday, March 11
Orlando Pirates (H) – Tuesday, March 17
Highlands Park (A) – Saturday, March 21
Maritzburg United (A) – Saturday, April 4
Cape Town City (A) – Wednesday, April 8
Golden Arrows (H) – Saturday, April 11
Kaizer Chiefs (A) – Wednesday, April 15
Baroka (H) – Saturday, April 25
Polokwane (A) – Wednesday, May 6
Black Leopards (H) – Saturday, May 9