City - the Cape’s new PSL club - are on an extraordinary high while Ajax - the region’s routine, familiar top-flight side - are in the midst of an ignominious slump.
At the weekend, it was no different. City trekked to Port Elizabeth and defeated Chippa United 2-1 with goals from Lebogang Manyama and Judas Moseamedi. Ajax, at home at the Cape Town Stadium, lost 2-1 courtesy of a last-gasp strike from Maritzburg United’s Deolin Mekoa.
Both clubs are in action again tomorrow. City host Maritzburg at Athlone Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm), where a win will see them go top of the PSL. Ajax are in Rustenburg to take on Platinum Stars (kick-off 7.30pm), desperate for something positive to lift the spirits of a team already embroiled in an embarrassing relegation scrap at this early stage of the season.
City, to further cement their elevated status in Cape football at the moment, also play at the weekend, when they host Free State Stars in the semi-finals of the Telkom Knockout (kick-off 3pm) at Athlone Stadium.
But, as the Green Point-based club prepares for a demanding week of football, it can draw confidence from their recent performances.
“It was a good result against Chippa at the weekend,” said City’s assistant-coach Ian Taylor. “They were a bit better early on in the match because they keep the ball very well. But our defensive shape and structure were excellent, and we were always dangerous on the counter. We created numerous scoring chances - in fact, when we went 2-0 up, it could have been so much more. Chippa got a late penalty to make it 2-1 and we hung on for the win. But, to be honest, we were always in control and at no stage did they look like breaking us down.
“As for Maritzburg tomorrow, it’ll be our first game at Athlone this season. We watched them beat Ajax on Saturday night and they look a very disciplined team. They are good without the ball in that their midfielders close things down very quickly and, as a whole, they allow the opposition very little space. So we know we are in for a tough game.”
As for City’s neighbours, Ajax, there must surely be alarm bells reverberating around the Parow-based club. They cannot buy a win at the moment. Despite a good performance against Maritzburg on Saturday, in which they had about 80 percent possession, they again failed to turn that dominance into goals and points.
For new Ajax coach Stanley Menzo, losing with the final kick of the game was heart-breaking. But he knows he’s got to put it behind him and make sure that his squad is ready for tomorrow’s outing against Stars in Rustenburg.
“We didn’t do too badly,” said Menzo. “Maritzburg played the way we expected them to, and we played the way were had trained to prepare for the game. We controlled the first half, but I thought we lost a bit of that control in the second half. The biggest problem right now is that, when we lose the ball, we give too many spaces away, and that is where we give goals away.
“But there were a lot of positives to take from the game. It’s those positives we need to focus on to get us the points we need, to help us to turn things around.
“Obviously, there wasn’t a good atmosphere in the dressing-room afterwards. But my job now is to get their confidence up as we prepare for Platinum.
“Most importantly, I have to show them the good things from the game and get them to continue in that way. On the other hand, I also have to look at the other things that the team is not doing so good.”
Menzo is also hoping that he will have Bafana Bafana central defender Rivaldo Coetzee back for the trip to Rustenburg. Injured in the SA national team’s 2-1 win over Senegal last week, Coetzee sat out Saturday’s match against Maritzburg, with Roscoe Pietersen and Ghanaian Lawrence Lartey partnering in the centre of defence.
“We’ll see what things look like at training and then decide on who will play against Platinum,” said Menzo.
Original source: Joy for City, more woe for Ajax