And cut. The 25th PSL season ended on Saturday afternoon in almost the same manner that it started – with more than half the matches ending in a draw.
Five out of eight matches ended in a draw on the weekend of 24/25 October last year, and six of eight matches were stalemates this past weekend, helping set a new record for the 30-game PSL era.
94 – In the end, there were 94 drawn matches in the 2020/21 top-flight season, a new record for a 30-game campaign in the division.
Starting today, we’re reviewing the season just ended with a series of four articles until Friday, featuring a few stats on each team (both ordinary & extraordinary). Teams A to B feature today, focusing on AmaZulu, Baroka, Black Leopards and Bloemfontein Celtic.
KwaZulu Natal has always been a cradle for football in the country, and AmaZulu are the oldest club still in the league (born 1932). The province has had scattered flings of success, but the peak in recent years is easy to find – the first PSL title went to KZN (Manning Rangers) the year after Clive Barker led Bafana Bafana to AFCON victory.
However, 24 seasons after Manning Rangers, no team from KZN has finished in the PSL’s Top 3 – Maritzburg’s 4th spot in 2017/18 is the highest from the province. Until today. The list of AmaZulu’s records this season has been widely covered, and Benni McCarthy’s Coach of the Season award reiterates how far they have come.
2 – Usuthu’s 2nd place finish is the highest finish for the club in the PSL era, and the highest finish for a KZN side since Manning Rangers won the inaugural PSL season.
Last season, Polokwane City topped the league table early on in the season, but ended up relegated. This season, Baroka also topped the table early on, and many feared the same fate. They survived. They opened the season in a flurry, losing one of their first six matches, but the next 24 matches followed the same pattern – one win in the second set of six games was followed by one win in the third set, one win in the fourth set and one win in the final six set of games. Not exactly progress, but the 11 points in the opening six games gave them enough cushion for safety.
Baroka fans will point to the 10th position finish (their highest ever in the top division), but it’s little solace when you consider that they finished in 14th in 2017/18 with the same number of points as this season (34).
Young Player of the Year award winner Evidence Makgopa deserves special mention – No player in Baroka FC’s history has scored more top-flight goals for the club than him (11).
The only club that didn’t receive a penalty all season, their 5th top-flight season rounded off nicely however – Bakgaka played their 150th games, and with a total goal difference of -50.
5 – Baroka have ended all five seasons with a negative goal difference, improving slightly from -10 (2018/19) to -9 (2019/20) and -8 (this season).
Leopards were involved in a relegation battle until the latter stages of the 2019/20 campaign, only to survive via the playoffs. A season later, nothing had changed, except they didn’t even make the playoffs this time. While Baroka started well and fell off, Leopards started badly and never recovered. It has been coming however – since the start of the 2018/19 season, Leopards managed to string two league wins in a row only once, and that was in the bio-bubble.
A quick glance at this season’s numbers doesn’t make good reading. Conceding the most goals in the division doesn’t help, but equalling the club record for losses is a guarantee to get you into trouble.
17 – Leopards lost 17 games in the 2020/21 season, equalling their club record for a top-flight season.
In the 2007/08 and 2019/20 seasons, Leopards lost 17, won 8 and drew 5 of their 30 games – they finished 15th on both occasions, and were relegated in the first.
In 2012/13 and this season, Leopards lost 17, won 5 and drew 8 of their 30 games – they finished 16th and were relegated on both occasions.
As we wave goodbye, one wonders how long they will take to return to the top-flight, because there is still unfinished business.
99 – Leopards have won 99 league games in the top-flight, and need just one more win to become the 16th team with 100 wins.
It may have passed unnoticed but Bloemfontein Celtic were the worst travellers in the league this season. Even the relegated Black Leopards won more matches and more points on the road than the one win and 6 points Siwelele gathered. In six of the last ten seasons, the team with the fewest points away from home ended up relegated.
1 – Only once before have Celtic completed a full top-flight season with fewer away wins and points than they managed this season (0 wins, 6 points in 2008/9 – John Maduka was still a player at the club).
If the one-step-forward, two-steps-back nature of Celtic’s seasons continues, they are in danger of remaining a mid-table side for the foreseeable future. Or even worse. Two successive Top 8 finishes have been followed by 11th place, a return to where they were three seasons ago. More than that, this was their second lowest points total in the last 10 years. As Black Leopards (another B-letter team have shown), you can only flirt with danger for so long.
6 – There have been six top-flight clubs whose name starts with the letter B.
Can you name them?
By Opta Jabu