Bidvest Wits became league champions for the first time in their history on Wednesday night in the finest style of professionalism that has been the great South African club’s hallmark of their 96-year history.
With Mamelodi Sundowns losing 2-0 to Maritzburg United at Lucas Moripe Stadium, James Keene’s strike in the fourth minute and Daine Klate’s in the 61st saw Wits beat Polokwane City 2-0 at Bidvest Stadium, and wrap up the 2016-17 Absa Premiership title with a game to spare.
The PSL might not have had its final-day drama on May 27. But, the finish 10 days earlier was still nothing less than spectacular.
Spectacular for a fine Wits team who played often pragmatic football in 29 matches — often, as on Wednesday night, far more than that.
The Clever Boys were worthy champions for the class of their line-up and the firm, educated hand of their coach Gavin Hunt and the excellence of their structures. And spectacular for the special atmosphere at Bidvest Stadium for anyone who was there.
Hunt’s Wits can be given flack for at times stodgy football. Their aggressive, front-foot gameplan has been extremely difficult for teams — including Sundowns at this ground (1-0) just more than two weeks ago — to contend with.
Last night, though, in their all-white with blue trim, and with the awesomeness of their starting line-up, and their technically proficient football,, onlookers might have seen them resembling the PSL’s Real Madrid, with Downs taking on the role of Barcelona.
In Atteridgeville, Maritzburg United ended Mamelodi Sundowns’ reign as champions, but failed to get a deserved three points as a blooper in the last minute allowed the home side to sneak a 2-2 draw at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.
Yannick Zakri’s two late goals saw Sundowns get a point, but it was not enough to stop Wits being crowned champions.
Sundowns were trailing 2-0 before coming back with virtually the last kick of the night. But, an air of foreboding permeated the stadium and the football club’s title race looked run long before the final whistle.
"We have to accept, it was not meant for us. Congratulations to Wits, they deserve the trophy," said a magnanimous Pitso Mosimane after the final whistle.
n Musa Bilankulu scored an own goal in the final minute to give Cape Town City a 1-0 victory over Lamontville Golden Arrows and keep alive their hopes of playing African Champions League football next season. City are now ensured of third position and African Confederation Cup football next season, while Golden Arrows stay ninth.
n Kaizer Chiefs’ 2-0 loss to Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Wednesday night in their penultimate match of the season, exposed their defensive frailties that have been their Achilles heel all season long.
n At Orlando Stadium, if it was not for the cold, a lot of the fans would have fallen asleep in the dull goalless draw that Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town played to.
n At Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Rhulani Manzini’s second-half hat-trick saw Chippa United beat Supersport United 1-0 in a crucial Premier Soccer League fixture.
n At Peter Mokaba Stadium, bottom of the table Baroka FC are hanging on by a thread after they failed to make the most of their home ground advantage in their goalless draw against fellow relegation candidates Highlands Park.