Maritzburg Utd still have PSL survival hope
Maritzburg United have a big second chance to beat relegation after drawing 1-1 against Baroka FC in the last round of Absa Premiership matches at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium yesterday.
Courtesy of their superior goal difference (-10) to relegated Free State Stars (-16), the Team of Choice will now fight for their place in the PSL in a playoff against Royal Eagles and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, who respectively finished second and third on the National First Division log last weekend.
Fortune Makaringe's 19th-minute goal saved Maritzburg United from straight relegation while Mduduzi Mdantsane's 65th-minute equaliser helped Baroka to finish in the 14th spot with 29 points, two clear of Maritzburg and Stars.
Mamelodi Sundowns were crowned champions for the ninth time with their 1-0 win which relegated Stars for the first time in 12 years. The other team that avoided the axe on the last day was Black Leopards, who had to thank Isaac Masia's 77th-minute header which gave them 1-0 victory over Cape Town City in Thohoyandou to finish in 13th position.
The other biggest winners in relegation battle-laced matches were Chippa United whose 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs in Port Elizabeth moved them to finish in 12th spot with 30 points.
Chippa's win means Chiefs finished outside the top eight for the second time under the tutelage of coach Ernst Middendorp.
The Team of Choice began yesterday's match still sitting at the bottom of the Absa Premiership table but their draw moved them to 15th position.
Having improved after Eric Tinkler took over the reins, Maritzburg will go to the play-offs in high hopes of avoiding another drop to the wilderness.
Coming to this match, Maritzburg were favourites, having won three and lost two of their last five matches as they closed the gap between themselves and the other four teams who reached the last day of the season still needing to confirm their status in the top flight of SA football.
Baroka, though, sitting on top of the five struggles' log with 28 points, had looked terrible in their 3-1 defeat away to Bidvest Wits last weekend.
Bakgaga were not expected to fight relegation after winning the Telkom Knockout in December, beating Orlando Pirates, who again finished second behind Sundowns despite beating Polokwane City 3-0 in Orlando yesterday.
Baroka coach Wedson Nyirenda blamed his players for the lack of appetite they showed to fight in matches where they faced the so-called smaller teams but raised their tails in big matches. The Zambian coach will have his second season in the PSL next season if Baroka's owners decide to keep him while looking to beef up their squad.
Leopards survived the tough way in Thohoyandou where they should have taken the lead in the first half when the league's leading goal-scorer Mwape Musonda missed from the penalty spot before Masia's header calmed the nerves of Lidoda Duvha fans who packed the Thohoyandou Stadium.
Musonda nevertheless finished as the league's top scorer with 16 goals.