Mamelodi Sundowns aim to pile the pressure on stuttering Kaizer Chiefs
Pitso Mosimane’s team can cut Amakhosi's lead to four points on Wednesday
The true cost of Kaizer Chiefs’ home defeat to Maritzburg United at the weekend will be revealed when champions Mamelodi Sundowns host Bloemfontein Celtic in a crunch league match at Loftus on Wednesday.
United provided a delicious twist to the league title race when they beat Chiefs 2-1 at FNB Stadium on Saturday, a result that elicited euphoric celebration from second-placed Orlando Pirates and third-ranked Sundowns.
Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp was at a loss for words as he surveyed the wreckage after United stunned his charges in their own backyard and could lose his voice altogether if Sundowns reduce Amakhosi’s lead at the summit to just four points with a win against Celtic on Wednesday.
The stakes are high and Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane will be rubbing his hands in delighted anticipation‚ well aware that a victory against the Free State visitors would suddenly put long-time premiership leaders Chiefs within touching distance.
“It [the league title race] is still alive until mathematically it is not‚” said Mosimane. “We have to push if we want to stay in contention for the title. The players have to continue pushing and they know that.”
Sundowns beat Chippa United 3-0 at Loftus on Saturday and Mosimane will hope his players repeat the trick with their third successive win on Wednesday.
“I told the players at halftime [against Chippa] that you are playing with the opportunity of keeping the league [title race] alive because you are missing chance after chance‚” he said.
“I said we appreciate that you have scored one goal in the first half and you are controlling the game but the manner in which you are missing chances‚ you are skating on thin ice with the opportunity to change the league race.
“I said Chippa could score and you saw that one of their players hit the post in the first half. They could equalise at any time and it’s a draw‚ we lose the opportunity to change the league.”
The pressure is increasing on Chiefs as in their next games they have the Soweto derby against Pirates‚ a date against struggling AmaZulu‚ then the tricky Wits‚ Polokwane City and Celtic.
Sundowns have the distraction of the Champions League‚ a quarterfinal trip to play Al Ahly in Cairo at the end of February‚ but their domestic assignments in the next five outings include league matches against Celtic‚ Cape Town City‚ Stellenbosch FC‚ Pirates and Highlands Park.
The two title challengers also have the Nedbank Cup to contend with in the coming days.
Chiefs have a last-16 fixture against Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa on Saturday and Sundowns host fourth-tier minnows Vaal University of Technology on the following day.