JOHANNESBURG – Khama Billiat had hardly been on the pitch for five minutes when he broke the deadlock to secure a 2-0 Absa Premiership victory for Mamelodi Sundowns over Bidvest Wits on Tuesday night.
It was a game characterised by an unbelievable amount of missed chances by both sides.
It appeared an interesting call by Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane to leave his talisman on the bench at the start of the game, but perhaps the ongoing contract negotiations played a part in that.
Mosimane has previously said that the Zimbabwean striker could leave the club in January or as a free agent at the end of the season.
But as long as he is getting paid, he will get game time, the coach has also said.
The game was threatening to end in a goalless draw when Billiat was told to put on his jersey to replace the speedy but ineffective Thapelo Morena in the 56th minute.
His first goal might have actually been his first touch as he found space behind the Wits defenders to connect to a beautifully-laid pass by Percy Tau, which Billiat calmly slotted past goalkeeper Darren Keet.
And he was back to haunt Wits in the 82nd minute, again dropping the shoulder and losing his marker to run on to a defence-splitting pass by captain Hlompho Kekana.
Keet came out and tried to make himself big, but Billiat had already picked a spot – the far post – and grabbed his and the club’s second goal of the night.
By then, it was game over.
The defeat for the Clever Boys comes at a time when they were looking like regaining a bit of confidence and some form, but the Premiership champions dropped more points in their own backyard here on Tuesday night.
The result puts their title defence in serious jeopardy – it will take something of a miracle more spectacular than raising the dead and walking on water for the Clever Boys to recover from six defeats in 10 matches to somehow retain the Premier League title.
Their opponents Sundowns now look poised to be the favourites for the championship this season.
These three points mean the Brazilians are just three adrift of log-leaders Baroka FC, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Cape Town City a few hours earlier, and have two games in hand.
Mosimane will remember the old cliché that games in hand are not games won, especially given the fact that Sundowns themselves have not had the best of starts and took some time to recover from the disappointment of being knocked out of the Caf Champions League in September.
But with an embarrassment of riches on the pitch and on the bench – one that meant the coach could enjoy the luxury of bringing both two-goal hero Billiat and Anthony Laffor later on to change the game – Sundowns are likely to go into the Christmas recess next month sitting on top of the log.
With a bit of consistency, they can easily be runaway leaders in this title race, but stranger things have happened.
Even Wits might feel they are still in with a shout, regardless of the fact that they have now lost six of their 10 league matches so far this season, which has left them just a point above bottom-placed side Platinum Stars.