MAMELODI Sundowns were crowned Absa Premiership champions on Saturday, coasting the South African league title after a 3-1 victory over relegation-threatened Ajax Cape Town.
Sundowns now have an unassailable seven-point advantage at the top of the division with a single round of matches to play, as focus shifts to the bottom of the table where the battle to avoid the drop has been narrowed to four sides.
Sundowns had to come from behind to earn their victory and claim an 11th league title, which puts them just one behind the country’s most successful club, Kaizer Chiefs.
It is also a third league title for their coach Pitso Mosimane, confirming his status as the best tactician in the domestic game.
Ajax took an early lead through Mosa Lebusa inside the first minute as he turned home a corner from Morné Nel.
But Sundowns were soon level when Percy Taun, who had earlier missed a one-on-one with Ajax goalkeeper Jody February, provided an assist for Zimbabwe international Khama Billiat to net at the back post.
And the home side were ahead when February uprooted Billiat in the box and Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento scored from the resultant penalty.
The result was put beyond doubt seven minutes before halftime when Themba Zwane’s perfect pass found Sibusiso Vilakazi and he added a third for Sundowns.
February had to scramble the ball off the line from Vilakazi, and Tau and Billiat had further chances in the second period, but Sundowns were able to cruise through the remainder of the match and complete their league win.
In the end even a defeat would have seen them crowned champions as second-placed Orlando Pirates lost 1-0 at Cape Town City thanks to Ayanda Patosi’s excellent strike from outside the box.
Pirates have had a marked change in fortunes under coach Micho Sredojevic and are guaranteed CAF Champions League football next season to complete what would be a satisfactory campaign for them, after they finished 11thlast year.
Kaizer Chiefs overtook Maritzburg United in third place with a 2-0 victory over The Team of Choice, the goals scored by Gustavo Paez and Dumisani Zuma.
They will travel to Ajax on the final day of the league season on 12 May, seeking to stay in third and qualify for the African Confederation Cup for 2019.
Defending champions BidVest Wits made sure they would avoid the drop after a come-from-behind 3-2 win over AmaZulu.
They fell behind to a goal from former player Michael Morton in the first half, second after the break goals from Daine Klate, Elaezar Rodgers and Ben Motshwari saw them claim the points. Usuthu scored a late penalty through Thapelo Nyongo.
But SuperSport United remain in the relegation mix after they let a lead slip in a 1-1 draw with Chippa United. Thabo Mnyamane had them ahead early, but an injury-time goal from Thabo Rakhale claimed a point for Chippa.
Polokwane City were held to a 0-0 draw by Free State Stars, while Baroka FC were held 2-2 by Bloemfontein Celtic.
It means Ajax are in the relegation play-off position with 31 points, but still in danger are SuperSport (33), Polokwane (33) and Baroka (34), though the Urban Warriors know they must now beat Chiefs on the final day of the season.
Cape Town City and Free State Stars both secured top-eight places with their results.