That feeling of joy that you get after winning a game. Does anybody remember what it feels like? Another weekend of pain as another game slips by without success. To be fair Chiefs away is always going to be a tough ask, but there was an opportunity here. With the Soweto side surrendering home advantage and playing on the coast, Ajax did not have the altitude factor to contend with. Both sets of players would have had to travel and stay in unfamiliar surroundings. The large crowd should have had the effect of lifting both sets of players. Although it was a full house of Chiefs fans their crowd can hardly be called intimidating for the opposition. The vuvuzela tends to produce a neutral backdrop in big games played in South Africa and it was clear from the TV images that many of the Durbanites in attendance were there for a social event rather than a game of football. Dressed up in their Sunday best and taking selfies rather than watching the action on the field.
I suspect Chiefs will be pleased with the turnout. The Moses Mabhida Stadium looked much fuller than Cape Town Stadium last season when the Chiefs fans could barely fill the first tier. Hopefully they will stick to KZN for their future travels. Their support base is a complete mystery to me. Despite the millions of fans they claim to have, they play to tiny crowds at ‘home’ in Gauteng, where there is a boycott because nobody likes the coach – despite being top of the PSL. Having decided to take three ‘home’ games away to the coast they then decide to play AjaxCT there and give away the advantage their geographic location gives them over a coastal team. But of course in this miserable season AjaxCT could not benefit from this.
One of the problems with these long breaks in the PSL is that sides and individual players do not get the opportunity to build up momentum. Selecting a side to start again after a three week break feels almost like starting the season over again. Players that may have been in form three weeks ago may have dipped in the period without any activity. Others that were unfit may now be rested and ready to go again. Presumably RDS picked his side based on what he saw in training rather than who has been performing so far this season. Many eyebrows would have been raised at the inclusion of Mayambela and Mokoena from the start, and in fairness it looked like a positive selection. But our most consistent defender, Roscoe Pietersen, and attacking midfielder, Toriq Losper, did not even make the squad. If there are not injury or fitness issues, this is bizarre.
On the night the game seemed to pass Mayambela and Mokoena by, as once again there was a tendency to play suicide passes along our back line and then eventually go long to Paulse. Why do we bother picking a midfield? Chiefs obviously knew we like to play this high risk football on the edge of our own box and pressed us into conceding possession all night long. Despite this, it actually almost worked just three minutes in when Daniel Cardoso lost an otherwise aimless high ball from Coetzee in the wind. Paulse nipped in and should probably have scored past the oncoming Khune as he raced of his line. Maybe this opening just encouraged more of the same play, but the strong winds on a stormy night just kept blowing the ball back into AjaxCT faces.
You also have to wonder why Bantu Mzwakali was dropped to the bench after being in the starting eleven all season. He is a frustrating player who often fails to provide an end product to his hard work, but he has benefitted from a run in the side and has looked a more confident player this season. This would have been an ideal opportunity for him to show Chiefs what he is capable of. Since first setting foot on the pitch for AjaxCT he has been agitating for a move up north and is clearly using the club as a stepping stone. In the same way that Khama Billiat behaved a few seasons ago it should have been obvious he would be motivated to perform when in the shop window of the big games. Sure enough when he did eventually come on he had a fine game and looked the most likely player to open the solid Chiefs defence up.
As poor as we were for most of the night we still may have gotten something out of the game if we had avoided the now customary free gift to the opposition. It has been the same all season as we know, and this week it was Chipeta’s turn. Early in the second half, under no pressure at all, he simply turned and passed the ball straight to Hendrick Ekstein to run in on goal. Although he recovered well as he Chief’s man hesitated on the ball, the damage was done and the first goal came from the resulting corner.
We now are left to wonder where does this all end? The same stupid individual mistakes. The same ineffective long balls. The same mixed team selections. The obvious answer is that it ends in the NFD. In terms of individual talent and experience, there is a perception that this side is actually better than many we have seen in recent years. They probably feel they are in a false position and can point to unlucky moments, such as Paulse’s offside goal last night that was an extremely marginal decision. The reality is that the world of football is full of such talented sides that feel sorry for themselves and consider themselves too good to go down. Where are Moroka Swallows now? Elsewhere in the world Aston Villa and Newcastle have a history of English titles and European cups and are gone from the Premier League. I will leave you with this frightening list of the Top 10 big clubs in world football who thought they were good to go down. It is getting to the point where we can imagine Ajax Cape Town also having this experience.