New Zealand

Mamelodi Sundowns, Cape Town City setting the championship pace

Read more at www.iol.co.za

By Mihlali Baleka 40m ago

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JOHANNESBURG – Seven matches, five wins and two draws. Mamelodi Sundowns have enjoyed a blissful start to their DStv Premiership campaign, a feat that has tipped them as one of the teams to beat for the championship this season.

Despite their success of five titles in the last eight seasons, this is rather an uncharacteristic start for the Brazilians, who’ve entrenched themselves as slow starters in the league – having had to juggle continental and domestic football from the outset.

But the late commencement of the CAF Champions League season and Sundowns getting a bye in the first round of the preliminary qualifiers, meant that their sole focus was on domestic football.

They were booted out of the MTN8 cup quarter-finals by Bloemfontein Celtic, but bounced back in the league, bagging 17 points out of a possible 21 – a feat that has been largely influenced by Themba Zwane.

The reigning Footballer of the Season is on course to smash his own record. He has scored seven goals in as many matches this season, while he’s four strikes away from the overall 11 league goals he scored last term.

But Zwane and striking partners, Peter Shalulile and Kermit Erasmus, will be hoping to inspire Mamelodi Sundowns to a three-point Christmas present when they visit Lamontville Golden Arrows at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium today (3.30pm kick-off).

This will be a homecoming match for Sundowns senior coach Steve Komphela. After he left Arrows, assistant coach Mandla Ncikazi took over. Arrows are also unbeaten, with two wins and five draws.

But the most beleaguered team that will be hoping to end 2020 with a win is Kaizer Chiefs. A dark cloud has hung over the Naturena-based side – they can’t seem to come out of the blocks after their season-long transfer ban was not lifted by Fifa.

Already this season Chiefs suffered two defeats to rivals Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semi-finals. They were hammered by Sundowns on the opening day of the league campaign before losing to SuperSport United in their last league match.

They’ll host losing MTN8 finalist Bloemfontein Celtic at the FNB Stadium today (6pm kick-off). Celtic are also in the bottom half of the standings with seven points, one ahead of Chiefs, who’ve played a game extra.

Meanwhile, Cape Town City have quietly gone about their business. Fourth on the standings with 12 points – after three wins, three draws and one loss – the Citizens are among the pace-setters.

That record speaks volumes for how the players have been responding to coach Jan Olde Riekerink, who endured an underwhelming start to life in the Mother City after being roped in as Benni McCarthy’s replacement last year.

The Citizens will be hell-bent on finishing the year on a high note when they welcome TS Galaxy to the Cape Town Stadium today (6pm kick-off). The Rockets have blown hot and cold in their maiden season in the elite league after one win, four draws and two losses.

IOL Sport

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