Poor officiating and lack of goals sum up the opening third of the Premier Soccer League, writes Timothy Molobi.
Although only 10 games have been played so far, the fact that Baroka FC and Bloemfontein Celtic are in the top four is a big achievement considering their performance last season.
Both sides struggled to get going last season and almost got relegated. They seem to have learnt from that near-relegation experience because they look totally different – so far. Baroka may have failed to win their past three league games, but it is impossible to deny that they have been the better side of the first third.
It is still early days, but their good start to the season suggests they may be about to mount the first serious challenge for the title. They are deservedly basking in the glory of topping the standings.
Cape Town City, despite looking like a team in crisis following their mini slump, are still up there with the best. In fact, Benni McCarthy’s side has won more games (five) than any of the other teams that have played 10 matches.
After losing four successive matches, City bounced back with a slender 1-0 victory over Free State Stars on Wednesday to move to the third spot on the table.
Bidvest Wits’ hangover is the longest and the sooner they recover from this, the better.
This was not how their title defence was meant to start, but, at this rate, defending it successfully will be the toughest challenge. They look like a side that has already surrendered. Instead of fighting to regain their title, the champions are in a battle to maintain their top-flight status.
If there’s one thing that the opening games have shown, it is that there are no guarantees in football. All the preseason favourites have struggled to live up to their billing, and an upset might be on the cards for the championship.
Added to this, many games were characterised by below-par officiating, which has left coaches seething.
Pitso Mosimane has made his feelings towards match officials known – and rightfully so. Mamelodi Sundowns, the only side still to draw a game, could have done better than their eighth position and Mosimane points to controversial officiating as the reason for that.
Luc Eymael and McCarthy, among other coaches, have also been at the receiving end of some bizarre decisions.
While it took Platinum Stars 10 games to register their first victory, it also took as many games for Golden Arrows to suffer their first loss.
Stars, in particular, have struggled to get out of first gear and have already changed coaches, with Roger De Sá replacing Englishman Peter Butler. Eymael has also stabilised Free State Stars after replacing Sammy Troughton.
Teboho Moloi is getting his footing after registering two back-to-back victories following five draws he encountered after replacing Dan Malesela.
Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are still up there with the rest, but Steve Komphela and Milutin Sredojevic will have to work on the teams’ finishing if they are to mount a serious challenge.
With three victories, three draws and three losses, AmaZulu have been blowing hot and cold and need to be consistent if they want to avoid going back to the National First Division.
SuperSport United might be on the wrong side of the table, but have actually done well considering their involvement in the CAF Confederation Cup. If they win their games, they can top the table.
Following a good start, the wheels seem to have come off Maritzburg United after going six games without a win.
Ajax Cape Town have also dropped to the relegation zone after just two wins in nine outings.
But, undoubtedly, the opening games belonged to Kgoloko Thobejane and his Baroka troops, who have defied the odds.
To date, no player has scored a hat-trick and it should worry the league that, despite the many chances created, players are still firing blanks at the goalposts.