Ajax Cape Town fought tooth and nail to earn an excellent 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday evening
Ajax came into this huge encounter against last season’s domestic league champions Mamelodi Sundowns short on defenders, and coach Roger de Sa was forced to play midfielder Abbubaker Mobara in the role of a central defender.
Young Player of the Season Keagan Dolly got things started with a 24-yard effort which unfortunately did not trouble goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands. The visitors replied immediately with an attack of their own when Tebogo Langerman broke down the left hand side, yet his final shot was saved well by the Finnish shot-stopper Anssi Jaakkola.
Minutes later Katlego Mashego fluffed a gifted opportunity from within 12 yards of goal when he struck a loose ball high and wide. The Brazilians controlled the high tempo game during the opening quarter, as they put together a string of quick accurate passes and pressed high up in the attacking third. Meanwhile, the Urban Warriors were well aware of Sundowns’s ability to find the early goal. Ajax contently kept things compact at the back with Nathan Paulse playing alone up front.
In the 23rd minute the visitors were on the prowl once more when Elias Pelembe made a decisive run down the right before laying off Lindokuhle Mbatha, who’s thundering shot got blocked by Rivaldo Coetzee.
Two minutes later it was Ajax on the hunt with Paulse who delivered in a looping ball into the 18-yard area, but Granwald Scott’s headed attempt lacked power. Not long after, Paulse found himself with an opportunity of his own following Sandilands poor clearance. However, the veteran attacker rushed his shot towards an open net, not realizing he had acres of space and time on the ball.
The Mother City outfit eventually slowed the game down, but with failed attempts with the long ball towards a lonesome Paulse up front. Their delivery to the lanky attacker lacked accuracy and was easily dealt with.
Shortly after the restart Langerman made yet another swift run down the left flank, and delivered in a pin point cross towards Mame Niang inside the danger area. Niang did well and out-rise two defenders, but his header went wide and proved fruitless.
In the 50th minute the home side broke the deadlock with a stunning 30-yard strike by captain Travis Graham . Paulse made the initial layoff from a long ball into the area, before Graham picked up the follow-up ball to hammer the ball into the back of the net.
The match suddenly came alive as Pitso instructed his players to pick up the pace once more in search of an immediate equalizer. Teko Modise found himself in a good space on the edge of the area to fire in a shot which was ultimately blocked by the Warriors defense. Langerman was superb as he continued to harass the Ajax defense down the left side.
With just under half an hour remaining, coach Pitso Mosimane introduced former Platinum Stars attacker Bonji Ntuli in search of the comeback. Defender Cecil Lolo almost handed the visitors the equalizer with a poor clearance to hand Ntuli the ball just outside the edge of the area, fortunately Mobara was quick to recover the ball.
The inexperience in the Urban Warriors youngsters began to show late in the game as the pressure rose, resulting in careless mistakes in the midfield and at the back. Nonetheless, Ajax fought hard until the end to secure their first victory for the new campaign.