- Monday, 30 April 2012
- Written by Modou Lamin Beyai
The likelihood that Pa Dembo Touray’s Santos will be playing in the lower tier National First Division is becoming more of a reality with every passing week.
Yesterday, the Cape side lost 3-1 to Mamelodi Sundowns in Atteridgeville, making their position in the basement of the PSL table a perilous one indeed. Jomo Cosmos are still rock- bottom with 16 points, with Pa Dembo’s Santos next up with 23 and Black Leopards on 24. But the critical factor is that Cosmos have played two games fewer than Santos, while Leopards also have a game in hand.
According to the rules, which were amended this season, the team ending last on the PSL log is relegated to the First Division, and the club winning the lower tier league is automatically promoted to the PSL. The side finishing second from bottom on the PSL table goes into a play-off against the teams ending second and third in the First Division. The three clubs will play each other on a round-robin basis – home and away – to determine who plays in the PSL next season.
Pa Dembo and his Santos have three games remaining – against Free State Stars (home), AmaZulu (away) and Jomo Cosmos (home) – to either save their PSL status, or secure a second chance in the promotion play-offs. But the big problem for Santos is that their body language doesn’t suggest a team desperate enough to fight for anything. Except for two games this season – home wins over Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs – Santos have showed little interest in moving the team to safety.
This was again the case in Atteridgeville yesterday. With an easy victory over a plodding, negative-minded Santos, Sundowns moved to the top of the PSL table by virtue of having a better goal difference than second-placed Pirates.
Sundowns may have thought they were in for a torrid encounter considering the dire straits in which Santos find themselves. Instead, they found the Capetonians in a generous mood, even scoring an opening own goal to give the Pretoria team the lead.
The nature of Pa Dembo’s Santos’ meek capitulation in such an important game certainly doesn’t augur well for the remaining three fixtures. New Santos coach Mart Nooij has vast experience of football on the continent, but the Hollander will need all of his motivational ability, psychological insight and tactical nous to get this bunch of under-achieving footballers to at least show some character and resolve in the next few weeks.
Santos’ Nigerian defender, Pere Ariweriyai, netted a spectacular own goal with a powerful header after Sundowns winger Elias Pelembe had caused havoc down the right. The right side of defence was Santos’s Achilles heel for the entire first-half as Pelembe, Lebohang Mokoena and right-back Walter Maponyane poured forward at will.
Mokoena also later crossed for Zimbabwean striker Nyasha Mushekwi to make the score 2-0. So dull were Santos as an attacking unit in the first-half that Sundowns’ keeper Wayne Sandilands could have brought along his grandmother’s deckchair and spent the time tanning in the hot Pretoria sun.
Combative midfielder Hlompho Kekana’s thunderous drive made it 3-0 – and only then did Santos decide to venture forward a bit more. Eleazar Rodgers pulled one back with a superb first touch and a cool finish to make it 3-1, but it was all too little, too late. The damage had already been done in that toothless opening 45 minutes.