PSL Wrap: Joy, Despair, Close Calls & Near Misses On Final Day
Absa Premiership Finale: Sundowns Crowned Champions, Despair For Ajax Cape Town
The curtain was brought down on the 2017/18 Absa Premiership season on Saturday, although Ajax Cape Town will stay behind for the encore after once again falling flat in their performance.
Ajax Cape Town 2-1 Kaizer Chiefs
The Urban Warriors find themselves in the unenviable position of having to fight for their top-flight survival in the PSL promotion/ relegation play-offs after their 2-1 loss to Kaizer Chiefs saw the Mother City outfit finish in the bottom two.
Ajax begin the mini-league away to Black Leopards on May 16, while Jomo Cosmos are the other National First Division side vying for promotion to the big time.
For Amakhosi, the three points at the Cape Town Stadium, which were secured in the 87th minute by Joseph Molangoane, helped salvage an otherwise disappointing campaign as the Soweto giants wrapped up third place in the standings, earning their place in next term's CAF Confederation Cup.
Bernard Parker had opened the scoring in Cape Town six minutes after the restart, with Mosa Lebusa's equaliser on 64 ultimately proving inconsequential in the tie and Ajax's fate.
Bloem Celtic 0-0 Mamelodi Sundowns
Meanwhile, the Brazilians were unable to end their title-winning campaign with a victory as they were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Bloemfontein Celtic, although the boring draw did little to take away from the celebrations as the Tshwane giants wrapped up a record eighth Absa Premiership crown.
For Celtic, though, there would be no top-eight spot as Phunya Sele Sele finished an agonising one point outside of the MTN8-qualifying positions.
Orlando Pirates 2-1 Free State Stars
The Buccaneers may have seen their title bid ended in the penultimate round, but Milutin Sredojevic's men were still able to finish the campaign with their heads held high as they dispatched Free State Stars in Soweto, with Ntsikelelo Nyauza (22) and Thamsanqa Gabuza (88) firing home either side of Nhlanhla Vilakazi's temporary equaliser on 50 minutes.
The result proved to to have no bearing on the league table, though, with Pirates having already been guaranteed second spot heading into the finale, meaning a season of CAF Champions League in 2018/19, while Ea Lla Koto can take solace from their top-eight finish, giving them added confidence ahead of the Nedbank Cup final against Golden Arrows on Saturday.
Platinum Stars 1-0 Bidvest Wits
Dikwena bowed out of the top-flight with a shock 1-0 win over ousted champions Bidvest Wits, with Bongi Ntuli grabbing the game's only goal after 18 minutes at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The result may have only provided pride for the already-relegated Stars, but for Wits, it means they missed out on a place in next season's MTN8, proving a huge shock from the side who 12 months ago were crowned league champions.
Maritzburg United 1-1 Golden Arrows
Surprise package Maritzburg United were able to round off a highly impressive season with a fourth-placed finish following the 1-1 draw in the KwaZulu-Natal derby against Golden Arrows.
Fadlu Davids' men managed to rescue a point late on at Harry Gwala Stadium as Fortune Makaringe scored in the 87th minute to cancel out Lerato Lamola's 20th-minute opener for Abafana Bes'thende.
The Team of Choice will now have the chance to go one better when they square off against Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup final on May 19.
AmaZulu 1-0 Cape Town City
Usuthu managed to dig deep for some final-day heroics as the Durban giants saw off Cape Town City 1-0 thanks to Mbongeni Gumede's 63rd-minute winner, earning AmaZulu their place in next season's MTN8.
For City, the result highlighted their inconsistency this term as Benni McCarthy's men could only fashion a fifth-placed finish, some 20 points off the pace of the champions.
SuperSport United 1-0 Baroka FC
Both Matsatsantsa and Bakgaga entered Saturday's Lucas Moripe Stadium with their top-flight fates in the balance, and it was the former Absa Premiership champions who came out on top as Aubrey Modiba bagged the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after 26 minutes.
However, in the end, there would be no sweating for Baroka as Ajax's loss to Chiefs meant the Limpopo outfit were safe for another campaign in the Premiership.
Polokwane City 1-1 Chippa United
Rise and Shine were the other of the four relegation-threatened sides entering the final round of fixtures and had an early scare against Chippa United after going behind to Linda Mntambo's 38th-minute opener, but Thando Booi responded just four minutes later as the sides finished level pegging.
For Polokwane, the result, and their campaign will come as a stark warning for next term after finishing just three points clear of the bottom two, while the Chilli Boys will feel gutted to have missed out on a top-eight finish by just a single point.
Do you think Ajax can avoid relegation in the PSL Play-offs?