CAPE TOWN, December 21 – The 2017/18 season has so far been one of missed chances – both in front of goal and in terms of seizing the initiative to break clear of the chasing pack.
The common denominator – watch just about any post-match interview with a head coach this season and you’ll likely hear him mention it – has been the substandard finishing, the inability to capitalise on opportunities. Not that there have not been a number of truly spectacular goals, but too often simple chances are being missed and there have been too many 0-0 draws.
It’s been a forgiving campaign though for many coaches. Starting with the two men in the most pressurised jobs in the PSL – Kaizer Chiefs’ Steve Komphela and Orlando Pirates’ Milutin Sredojevic.
Komphela is under pressure to deliver some silverware after his previous two seasons in charge yielded nothing, while Bucs fans are hoping that Sredojevic is the saviour, the man to turn the fortunes around of a club which has endured a very disappointing couple of years by their standards.
Amakhosi have won only five of 15 league games, yet are in a third spot and only six points off the top. The Sea Robbers have claimed only four victories but are sitting two points behind Chiefs and are still in with an outside shot at making a title charge in 2018.
It’s been a similar story for Baroka FC. They were early front-runners and seemingly intent on pulling off a Leicester City, only for the wheels to come off during a run of seven matches without a win.
The most significant result of the season so far arguably came in the second last match before the year-end break, Cape Town City’s 1-0 win over pace-setters Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria. City are another team who have been in relatively inconsistent form, especially by the standards they set last season.
Yet they are still sitting nicely in the second place. And their victory over the Brazilians on Tuesday night means that the gap is only four points, when it could have ended up being 10 which would have seen Masandawana possibly running away with the title and making for a predictable second half of the season.
The 2016 African champions certainly remain in pole position and must be the favourites, but they have already lost four of 14 games and will be feeling less comfortable than they may have; the race is still wide open. Coach Pitso Mosimane also has a crucial few weeks coming up as he looks to strengthen in his squad in the January transfer window after Leonardo Castro left for Chiefs and with Khama Billiat possibly set to depart too.
Also profiting from the unpredictable nature of the league has been neighbours Free State Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic. Both flirted with relegation last season but are handily-placed in fifth (Stars) and sixth (Celtic) position this time around.
Champions Bidvest Wits meanwhile have made an awful start to their title defence and are bottom of the log. But together with other strugglers such as Ajax Cape Town, Polokwane City and the fast-improving Platinum Stars, should not be feeling too miserable at Christmas. That’s because two or three wins would be enough to send them close to the top half of the table, like Maritzburg United have done after seven points in their last four matches lifted them out of trouble and up to ninth.
In 12th spot, AmaZulu’s bright start to the campaign – after they had bought the franchise of Thanda Royal Zulu to get back into the top flight, has dipped in recent weeks and the Durban club finds themselves just two points above the drop zone. SuperSport United, Golden Arrows and Chippa United are other teams that have ended 2017 on a downer and will be looking to regroup and recharge in the break and come flying out the blocks when the second half of the league season gets underway in the first week of January.
African News Agency (ANA),