Roger de Sa’s team last won two league matches in a row in the early stages of the season last year, when they won three consecutively in August and September.
But after getting the better of SuperSport United 3-1 in Gauteng at the weekend, the Urban Warriors couldn’t close out the deal in Athlone against Aces despite enjoying a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Ajax dominated the first half, with the pace of Riyaad Norodien on the right flank proving troublesome for Muhsin Ertugral’s Aces outfit. SA Under-23 international Norodien got in a number of dangerous crosses, but his efforts were often wasted in front of goal.
But they eventually found their range when a brilliant tackle and then through-ball from Ajax captain Travis Graham from inside his own half in the 23rd minute found Prince Nxumalo on the left, and the speedy striker sped to the Aces box and whipped in a dangerous ball into the penalty are, and Norodien flew in to bury it in the back of the net.
Five minutes before halftime, Nxumalo turned from provider into finisher when Tashreeq Morris squared the ball into the Aces box after good work by Abbubaker Mobara on the right, with Nxumalo on hand to fire home his eighth goal of the season to give Ajax a two-goal cushion.
But almost true to form, Ajax relaxed after halftime and allowed Aces right back into the game three minutes after the break through yet another goalkeeping error by Anssi Jaakkola.
After last week’s howler when he let in a Rivaldo Coetzee back-pass, Jaakkola was caught napping when a powerful shot by Aces substitute midfielder Thanduyiso Khuboni was partly touched by Collins Mbesuma, which slightly wrong-footed Jaakkola. But the Finn was close enough to stop the ball from going in, only to see his attempted hack away help the ball over the goal-line.
That spurred on Ertugral’s men, and they swarmed all over the Urban Warriors for the rest of the match. The league’s top scorer Mbesuma – the veteran Zambian moved up to 12 for the season on Wednesday – was denied a few times by Jaakkola, while Lebogang Manyama and Aubrey Modiba also missed opportunities.
But the biggest miss came from Aubrey Ngoma, who rounded Jaakkola in the 61st minute and lofted the ball over an open goal.
Erwin Isaacs and Morris also went close for the home team, but then the decisive moment arrived with six minutes left as former Ajax man Manyama surged forward from inside his own half and fed Bhongolwethu Jayiya, who easily beat a diving Jaakkola to equalise.
The result sees Ajax shift up to eighth on the log, level on points with Orlando Pirates, who went down 2-1 to the log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Wednesday night.
Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat’s first-half strikes were enough to see off Pirates, who replied with a 71st goal from Mpho Makola.
Sundowns extended their lead over Wits to nine points, with Aces’ draw in Athlone taking them level on 36 points with the Clever Boys, but they remain third on goal difference and are a point ahead of fourth-placed Kaizer Chiefs.
Original source: Ajax can’t hold on, Sundowns topple Pirates