The Cape side, over the last few seasons, haven’t had the best of times against the team nicknamed AmaTuks.
In fact, before , they hadn’t beaten the team from Pretoria in six previous meetings. But Ajax changed all that on Friday, even though it was a tough, tense contest and they had worked really hard and dug deep to register the win.
The game, as expected, got off to a tight, cagey opening, with AmaTuks not offering the Capetonians any space or time on the ball.
The Pretoria side have a reputation as a disciplined, organised unit and this was exactly what they brought to the Mother City. They always had bodies behind the ball, they kept things narrow, heaped pressure on Ajax, who initially struggled to find any rhythm.
With play restricted to dour midfield exchanges, scoring chances were few and, by the 15th minute, neither goalkeeper had yet been called on to make a save.
Gradually, though, the game started to open up, with Ajax using either the pace and trickery of Riyaad Norodien or the height of Nathan Paulse to get behind the resolute Tuks defence.
The first opportunity, though, fell to the team from Pretoria in the 17th minute when Denver Mukamba’s whistling free-kick was tipped over by Ajax goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola.
Ajax then had a fantastic chance to take the lead when Paulse’s flick-on from Jaakkola’s clearance put Keagan Dolly in the clear.
With only Tuks goalkeeper Washington Arubi to beat, Dolly should have done far better, but only managed to side-foot the ball straight into the keeper’s grasp.
At the other end, too, Tuks were desperately unlucky not to open the score when Atusaye Nyando struck the upright with a powerful shot.
Goalless at halftime, both sides went in search of a goal early on in the second period, with Erwin Isaacs sliding an effort over the bar for Ajax, and Thabo Mnyamane heading wide for Tuks.
Attackers Tashreeq Morris and Bantu Mzwakali came off the bench as Ajax looked for fresh inspiration to try to break down an opposition side that weren’t prepared to give anything away.
The Cape side were also forced into a defensive change when centre-back Abbubaker Mobara was forced off injured. He was replaced by Cecil Lolo, who took over at right-back with Nazeer Allie moving to the centre of defence.
The change in attack had the desired effect when, after a slick inter-play that involved Isaacs, Norodien and a cross from Mosa Lebusa, it was Morris who headed the winning goal in the 80th minute - his sixth strike of the season.
But the best, in a game of few opportunities, was left for last, in injury time, as Granwald Scott produced a moment of magic. The central midfielder lined up a free-kick and whipped a wicked, curling shot beyond a despairing Arubi in the Tuks goal.
Original source: Ajax end AmaTuks bogey