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Three-goal Wits bury jinx as South African Premiership kicks off

Johannesburg (AFP) – Trophy-holders Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits — the top three finishers in the last South African Premiership — all won Saturday when the new season began.

Johannesburg outfit Wits top the table on goal difference after ending a run of five losses at AmaZulu by winning 3-0 in Durban.

Pirates lie second on goals scored with new signing Gabadinho Mhango from Malawi netting the final goal in a 3-1 victory over Bloemfontein Celtic in Soweto.

Sundowns’ bid for a record-equalling third consecutive Premiership title started with a 2-0 win over Pretoria neighbours SuperSport United that was sealed by a late Themba Zwane goal. 

In other matches, Baroka came from two goals behind to draw 2-2 at home against Cape Town City in Polokwane and Chippa United were held 0-0 by promoted Stellenbosch in Port Elizabeth.

Wits laid the AmaZulu jinx to rest decisively with first-half goals from Zimbabwean Terrence Dzvukamanja and Namibian Deon Hotto setting the 2017 champions up for success.   

A powerful header by South Africa captain Thulani Hlatshwayo off a free-kick nine minutes into the second half completed an impressive showing by the visitors.

“It was a great win because our away record against AmaZulu has not been good — they hammered us 3-0 the year we won the championship,” said Wits coach Gavin Hunt.

“This was an impressive away performance and we have plenty in reserve,” added the former defender with a record-equalling four Premiership titles as a coach to his credit. 

– ‘More quality’ –

“Consistency is the key in the league — we should have won the title last season only to be let down by erratic form. I think there is a little more quality in the squad now.”

After a spate of new signings by Serb coach Milutin Sredojevic, expectations are high among Pirates supporters that they will improve on finishing runners-up in the past two seasons.

The Buccaneers needed just six minutes to lead Celtic as Zambian Augustine Mulenga scored, only for substitute Mzwanele Mahashe to level as half-time approached.

Celtic have proved troublesome opponents for Pirates in recent seasons, but not this time as the hosts dominated the second half and won via goals from Innocent Maela and Mhango.

“It was a far from perfect performance with improvement needed in all areas,” was the post-match verdict of Sredojevic as he begins a third season in charge.

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