Vital weekend for Cape sides


Football’s peculiar penchant for the unexpected and unpredictable has been particularly evident at the Mother City’s two PSL clubs. Over the last few seasons, the Cape has had just one team in the top-flight: Ajax Cape Town. This season, enter Cape Town City - and everything has been thrown upside down.

Ajax, yet to win a game this season, host Maritzburg United at the Cape Town Stadium Saturday night (kick-off 8.15pm), while City are in Port Elizabeth to take on Chippa United (kick-off 3.30pm).

And, as football’s rollercoaster would have it, the clubs are at opposite ends of the PSL standings, and facing completely different challenges.

So, as Ajax and City head into crucial games on Saturday, let’s unpack where they stand at the moment.

What they’ve done right

Cape Town City

Much is made about the fact that City are a new club in the PSL. But, let’s face it, that’s not really true, is it?

The name of the club may be new - but, from a playing perspective, the foundation of last season, when they played as Mpumalanga Black Aces and the squad built then, has been crucial to the team’s early season success. Aces finished fourth in last season, and those same players are now simply carrying on where they left off, albeit they are only doing so based in another province.

Ajax Cape Town

Winless after nine games - eight in the league and one in the Telkom Knockout Cup - you’d probably laugh at any suggestion that Ajax have done anything right.

And, yet, they have !

Like it or not, fortune plays a massive role in any sport. The bounce of the ball here and there, and things could be so different. Truth be told, Lady Luck has just not smiled on them - she has, in fact, turned her back and deserted the Cape side for the time being.

Roger de Sa, the former coach, and Mich d’Avray, De Sa's assistant coach, have regularly spoken of the fact that, all season, no team has actually run them over. There hasn’t been an occasion when they’ve come off the field feeling that they were outplayed. And their assessment is right.

To use just one example: In a 2-1 defeat to Orlando Pirates at Cape Town Stadium in September, Ajax played some really smart football. They dominated the opposition and created quite a few scoring chances, but still managed to lose.

Pirates had two opportunities, scored both - and that was it.

What they’ve done wrong

Cape Town City

In a word: inconsistency.

How else do you judge a team that beats Kaizer Chiefs, outplays Orlando Pirates and defeats African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, but then slumps to shoddy performances against teams like Baroka FC, Golden Arrows, Bloemfontein Celtic and Highlands Park?

This remains the biggest challenge for head coach Eric Tinkler, something he has openly admitted to. One week, they are brilliant, and the next they’re mediocre.

Tinkler, though, has been impressed with his team’s recent outings - now he’s just hoping that he can drag a measure of consistency out of them.

Ajax Cape Town

A lot is wrong with Ajax would be the first response.

So, let’s unpack a few things.

When new head coach Stanley Menzo stepped into the hot seat, the first thing he mentioned was confidence. His assessment is spot on. At the moment, because of their precarious log position, and the fact that they haven’t won a game, players are hiding.

Goals, too, have been in short supply.

Many would say it’s a scenario endemic to the entire landscape of the domestic game but, at Ajax, the problem is just a little more acute. Week after week, the Cape side creates chance after chance, but they are just not making use of their scoring opportunities. At the other end, in defence, there have also been some amateurish errors, which has resulted in Ajax conceding a number of soft goals.

Why this weekend is important

Cape Town City

With fifth-placed City are just two points off log leaders Wits in the log. Victory over Chippa tomorrow ensures that they stay in touch with the pacesetters. They don't have any pretensions, at this stage of winning the title, as the main objective in their debut season is just to consolidate and grow the club.

Ajax Cape Town

A winless run of nine games, a team anchored to the basement of the standings, and players desperately in need of an injection of confidence. This is a game they need to win.

The Star

Original source: Vital weekend for Cape sides