Sundowns, Pirates suffer continental distraction syndrome

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JOHANNESBURG, March 6 – The Premiership title race has been thrown wide open as a result of the league’s top side’s inability to juggle domestic and continental responsibilities.

The 2018-19 Premiership season could go down as one of the best in many years following the stumbles of defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns, and the side most fancied to displace them, Orlando Pirates.

Both sides dropped points on Tuesday evening as Sundowns suffered a shock defeat to now bona fide title contenders Cape Town City. Coach Benni McCarthy will not be able to hide behind excuses for much longer as the Citizens must be considered a serious option to finish on top of the pile. City’s come from behind win moved them to within a point of co-leaders Sundowns, who failed to move past Pirates.

The Buccaneers dropped two valuable points after escaping their clash against Bloemfontein Celtic with a draw.

The mental advantage has shifted between Bidvest Wits and the current two table toppers ,but now Sundowns find themselves with just a single game in hand. The Clever Boys have also played a game less and are just two points off the top.

SuperSport United have also emerged from the pretenders as the fifth and final realistic candidate for league honours. They might sit five points off the top but they have not battled the “continental distraction syndrome” that has ravaged Masandawana’s prospects.

Despite boasting world-class strength in depth, Pitso Mosimane has seen his side struggle in recent weeks with the league points drying up as fast as their games in hand advantage.

Mosimane was forced to downplay physical fatigue as a problem for his star-studded lineup after their shock midweek defeat. The results clearly show that mental fatigue, with just eight games left, is starting to play a big role in determining where the silverware will end up.

Pirates, who sit on top with Sundowns, albeit precariously, are in the same boat when it comes to juggling fixtures outside of South Africa albeit with a smaller squad.

Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic was upset that his side failed to dig deeper against Siwelele, but therein lies the problem which he must attempt to overcome. Mental and physical demands are at their peak at this part of the season with slip-ups now more evident and more costly.

The co-leaders still have the bookies’ backing but that picture could change quite quickly should they fail to deliver maximum points after their next continental sojourn.

It’s a soccer fan’s delight although Mosimane and Sredojevic may not be entirely thrilled about what lies ahead. (ANA)