Mamelodi Sundowns retain South African title on last day of season

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South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns retained their domestic league title on Saturday, finishing two points ahead of Orlando Pirates on the last day of the season

Striker Phakamani Mhlambi scored on the stroke of half-time to hand Mamelodi Sundowns the South African league title for the fourth time in six years, with a 1-0 win at Free State Stars on the final day of the season.

It meant they finished two points ahead of Orlando Pirates in a repeat of the top two positions of the previous campaign.

Both clubs will play again in the African Champions League next season as South Africa’s two representatives.

Pirates sped into a 3-0 lead over Polokwane City on Saturday and then tapered off in the second half when news of Sundowns’ situation filtered through.

Both matches were supposed to kick off simultaneously but too many Sundowns fans travelled to the small Free State town of Bethlehem to watch the last game and so delayed the start by some 10 minutes.

It meant that Pirates ended their game earlier and sat and waited to see whether Stars might equalise against Sundowns in the closing stages and hand them the title.

But there was no last minute drama.

Sundowns had started the last day of the season two points clear of Pirates after winning a midweek catch-up game.

But had Pirates had a better goal difference and had Sundowns drawn and Pirates won, the title would have gone to Soweto rather than Pretoria.

Once Mhlambi scored, Sundowns were never under much threat and saw out the game to take victory, just seven days after the disappointment of elimination from the semi-finals of the African Champions League- even if coach Pitso Mosimane made it clear all season that winning the top club prize in Africa was his top priority.

He repeatedly told reporters he “did not care” about the domestic league title, although his words obviously did not sink in with his players, more determined than ever to win the league to make up for Champions League disappointment at the hands of Wydad Casablanca.

Among them, 33-year-old captain Hlompho Kekana, who has now won a record-equalling sixth league title, having also been champion twice with SuperSport United in the early part of his career.

Bidvest Wits finished third and will go to the African Confederation Cup along with the winner of next week’s cup final between Kaizer Chiefs and second division surprise package TS Galaxy.

By losing to Sundowns, Stars were automatically relegated while Maritzburg United, who finished 15th, go into the end-of-season promotion/relegation playoffs, which begin on Wednesday.

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