It was a drama-packed final weekend of the Absa Premiership season as Maritzburg United pulled off one of the great escapes and Mamelodi Sundown were officially crowned champions.
United suffered from the tragedy of the passing of their player Mondli Cele earlier this year, and they’ve done well to recover and survive in this league. Their survival should be dedicated to the memory of Cele.
The Team of Choice pipped University of Pretoria and Jomo Cosmos to the magical 14th position, with AmaTuks securing a play-off spot. Ezenkosi, meanwhile, suffered heartbreak as they were relegated.
Meanwhile, the race for the top eight ended with Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United claiming the final two places on offer in round 30.
But the big result of the weekend came in Potchefstroom where Maritzburg, bottom of the table for majority of the season, secured a remarkable 3-1 come-from-behind win over Cosmos to secure their top-flight status.
Linda Mntambo (27) had put the hosts on course to survive and they looked like they were going to do exactly that until the final eight minutes.
That’s when Mohau Mokate (82) levelled and the Evans Rusike (86 and 90) grabbed a brace to earn Middendorp’s side one of the greatest escapes ever witnessed in Premier Soccer League (PSL) history.
To make matters worse for Jomo Sono’s side, Tuks beat Lamontville Golden Arrows 2-1 in Pretoria to also leapfrog them and condemn them to the National First Division (NFD) next season.
Vuyisile Ntombayithethi (29) and Getaneh Kebede (43) put the University team ahead, before a late consolation for Gladwin Shitolo (90).
The sequence of results meant that Maritzburg ended on 27 points and their two rivals on 25 each with Shaun Bartlett’s qualifying for the Promotion/Relegation Play-Offs by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Meanwhile, the top eight battle saw Arrows miss out on qualifying for next season’s MTN8 following a point each for Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United in their 2-2 Soweto draw.
Goals from Sifiso Myeni (67) and Mpho Makola (86) were cancelled out by Bradley Grobler (77) and Denwin Farmer (90) strikes.
The Bucs finished on 41 points, with Matsatsantsa and Abafana Bes’thende level on 40 – the former though ending with a superior goal difference to take eighth.
Sixth place above them was secured in some style as Chippa United stunned Kazier Chiefs, who ended fifth, 2-0 at FNB Stadium.
Buyani Sali (17) and Lerato Manzini (66) were on target for the Eastern Cape side as they secured their best-ever league finish.
Elsewhere, Mpumalanga Black Aces took fourth place thanks to a 1-0 triumph over Free State Stars in Nelspruit, where the only goal came from Eddie Ngalo in the opening minute.
AmaZayoni and Chippa were not the only sides that ended the season in an impressive position. So too were Platinum Stars in third place.
This despite a final day 1-0 loss to the champions in Atteridgeville.
Khama Billiat was the match-winner for the Brazilians with his 23d minute goal.
Pitso Mosimane’s men claimed two records by closing the season with victory – the highest points total of 71 (for a 16-team PSL season) and a lead of 14 points at the end of the season over second-placed Bidvest Wits.
The Students ended their campaign with a disappointing 1-0 loss away at Ajax Cape Town, who scored the only goal through a Nathan Paulse (50) penalty.
The Urban Warriors ended the season 10th, a spot above Bloemfontein Celtic, who drew their final match 1-1 with 13th-placed Polokwane City.
Both goals were scored early through Lerato Lamola (1) and Thobani Mncwango (6) at the Dr Molemela Stadium.