Could it have been the influence of the so-called “Q-innovation”? Whatever it was, the opening round of the Absa Premiership this past weekend was the best by far, with drama and goals galore.
An incredible 19 goals were scored across six matches in Friday and Saturday’s programme, with Kaizer Chiefs’ demolition of AmaZulu in Durban headlining an encouraging start to the season by local teams so accustomed to the banal.
That teams produced extraordinary performances just after the Premier Soccer League announced a ground-breaking “Q-innovation”, whereby teams would be rewarded for topping the table at the end of each quarter – after eight matches to be precise – will have had the league’s hierarchy patting themselves on the back.
This was easily the most productive first weekend of the Premiership, which was in stark contrast to the mundane nature of the past opening rounds of recent seasons, when 0-0 draws would be commonplace.
As it was this time, the first two days of the Premiership yielded just a single draw between Ajax Cape Town and SuperSport United, with the Urban Warriors requiring a late Terror Fanteni equaliser to deny Gavin Hunt’s men as the match ended 1-1.
But it was Chiefs’ 6-0 demolition of AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium that had even Amakhosi’s rivals in awe. Having suffered a damaging 4-1 loss to Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8 the previous weekend, Stuart Baxter’s men travelled to Durban with a vengeance and ruthlessly disposed of an AmaZulu side who were expected to build on last season’s impressive top eight finish.
Remarkably, the destroyer-in-chief was Bernard Parker, a striker who was much criticised last season after failing to deliver for Amakhosi following his arrival from FC Twente.
So unimaginative were Parker’s performances last year that he lost his place in the Bafana team, having scored a paltry four goals all season. On Saturday, he hammered in four goals in one match, with Kingston Nkatha and Siyabonga Nkosi completing the rout that ensured Chiefs registered their biggest win in the Premiership era. All of Parker’s goals were good, but his fourth – chipped from just inside the AmaZulu penalty area – was absolutely exceptional.
While Chiefs were back with a bang, a Sundowns side who embarrassed them last week were struggling against newcomers Chippa United at Lucas Moripe Stadium. After finding the rookies’ defence difficult to breach, Johan Neeskens’s Sundowns had to rely on Thamsanqa Sangweni’s goal from a free-kick midway through the second half for a very unconvincing win.
Chippa, meanwhile, will have taken heart from their performance as, amazingly, they also fashioned scoring chances when they had been expected to be lambs to the slaughter.
Free State Stars showed they would again be strong contenders this season when they beat an almost completely new Bidvest Wits 2-0 at Goble Park. Not even the presence of Aaron Mokoena, Tinashe Nengomasha and Matthew Pattison in the Wits side could stop Stars from winning comfortably through first-half goals from Paulos Masehe and Noah Chivuta.
At Peter Mokaba Stadium, the Black Leopards-Bloemfontein Celtic tie produced a red card for either side and five goals, with Lidoda Duvha winning 3-2. Celtic had fought back from 2-0 to make it 2-2, but Rodney Ramagalela converted a penalty 10 minutes from the end to give the Limpopo side all the points.
Meanwhile, champions Orlando Pirates overturned a deficit to beat Golden Arrows 2-1 at Orlando on Friday night, where Tlou Segolela came off the bench to score a brilliant winner with 12 minutes to go.
Both coaches, Augusto Palacios and Muhsin Ertugral, lauded the “Q-innovation” as a positive step towards improving the league.
“It is a good idea, a fantastic opportunity for smaller teams to aspire to be at the top,” Ertugral, of Arrows, said.
Bucs trainer Palacios added: “It’s the first time I hear about this and it’s a surprise to me, but the PSL are trying to tell teams to be more consistent. It’s good motivation.” At least the weekend results suggest so.