PART 1: The BP Top8 from 2000 until 2002

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The Top 8 competition (what we know as the MTN8 today) is an annual competition that features the teams that finished 1 to 8 in the league the season before.

It began in 1972, and ran until 1996. When the PSL was formed in 1996, the Top8 was halted for three years, and was only restored again in 2000.

In the next four hours, our Top 8 History series will feature the best facts and stats in the tournament from the year 2000. Indeed, there were winners in the Cup before the PSL era, with Kaizer Chiefs (11 titles) far ahead of the nearest rival, Orlando Pirates (6). No other side had more than 2.

2000 – THE GOLDEN GOAL ERA

The 2000 BP Top8 was the first tournament in the PSL era, with Mamelodi Sundowns coming in as string favorites after winning their 3rd successive league title. This was a strong period for Sundowns, Chiefs and Pirates, as these sides finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the league in four successive seasons – 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000 and 2000/01. All three sides made it to the last four in the Top8 in 2000, but Sundowns lost to Pirates while Chiefs were dumped out by an Ajax side that had an 18-year old Steven Pienaar in their ranks.

Pirates went on to beat Ajax 2-1 in the final. They took the lead through Pollen Ndlanya around the hour-mark, and thought they were on course to retain the trophy they had won in 1996. But Ajax got an equaliser in the last minute of normal time, only to be undone by Thabo Mngomeni’s golden-goal penalty in extra-time. The golden-goal was a FIFA rule introduced in the early 90’s as a tie-breaker – the team that scored the 1st goal in extra-time were declared the winner.

0 – To date, the Pirates of 2000 are the only side in the PSL era to win the Top8 without a single clean-sheet throughout the tournament.

3 – This was the only edition that had a 3rd place playoff for losing semi-finalists, with Chiefs beating Sundowns 3-2.

2001 – THRILLER IN THE CUP

The 2001 tournament featured four new sides that had not qualified in 2000, and all of them were knocked out in the first round. This is a tournament remembered for one of the most thrilling knockout matches in the PSL era – Pirates 4 Supersport 3. Supersport led 3-0 at half time (including a goal by their current coach Kaitano Tembo). But Pirates staged a stunning come back, scoring three second half goals to take the tie to extra time. This remains the only occasion in the tournament where a team has come from a 3-0 half-time deficit & won.

Pirates lost 1-0 to Chiefs in one semi-final, thanks to Kenny Niemach’s header, while Sundowns comfortably knocked Jomo Cosmos out. The final was a repeat of the previous year’s 3rd place playoff, and once again Chiefs were victorious in the decider. Sundowns had come from a goal down and led 2-1 late on after a Cyril Nzama mistake. The defender made amends a few minutes later and equalised in the dying minutes. Chiefs won the final 7-6 on penalties, with Nzama scoring the winning penalty.

2 – Daniel Mudau scored two goals in that final v Chiefs. He is one of only three PSL era players to score a brace in a Top8 final, but the only one to end up on the losing side.

2002 – SUNDOWNS HEARTBREAK AGAIN

If the early days showed anything, it was how Sundowns would have a complicated relationship with the Top 8 Cup. They lost the 2001 final, and also went on to lose the 2002 final. In the 2002 final, they lost to defending league champions Santos, who were led by caretaker coach Boebie Solomons following Gordon Igesund’s departure to Ajax.

1 – Santos won the 2002 BP Top8, one of only three sides in the PSL era to lift the Top8 trophy while they’re also defending league champions.

Kaizer Chiefs were conspicuous by their absence in 2002, having finished 9th in the league the season before. So on the other side of the draw, Pirates met Moroka Swallows in their quarter-final. They thumped The Dube Birds 5-0, the biggest winning margin in the Top8 tournament until 2009 (Arrows 6-0 Ajax), a win led by Lesley Manyathela (brace) and Jimmy Kauleza (3), who set a record that still stands today.

3 – Jimmy Kauleza scored three goals for Pirates in their BP Top8 quarter-final in 2002. Till today, he is the only PSL era player to score a hat-trick in a Top8 match.

Despite featuring in more finals than any other side in the BP Top8 era (2), Sundowns never won any of them, and had to wait until 2007 to win their only Top8 title in the PSL era. Even the arrival of Pitso Mosimane in 2012 hasn’t brought them the luck in this competition.

By Opta Jabu

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