The pain is over. On Wednesday night Cape Town finally got to see the two rarest phenomena in the city this year – rain and a victory for AjaxCT. We were wet and cold in an increasingly uncomfortable final twenty minutes as the home side sat deeper and deeper in defence of the slender one goal lead. Everyone behind the ball, the odd desperate moment and a back four that sat so far back their ankles were almost in Table Bay. Let’s be honest this was not pretty. In a week in which coach Stanley Menzo stressed the importance of keeping a clean sheet we knew what to expect. It was caution first football and a performance that was as defensive as anything we saw in the final days of RDS. But, it was needed and it worked.
The one moment of genuine entertainment arrived early in the game when Mark Mayambela scored what turned out to be the winning goal. In a word it was simply beautiful and so out of character with much of what we saw in the following 81 minutes. This is a man that does not score simple goals. In fact he seems to be having a one-man goal of the season competition. For me this was the best so far. The link up with Prince, whose perfectly weighted lay off let Mayambela in and then the perfectly composed finish over the keeper. Wonderful and worthy of winning any game, anywhere in the world.
With the long winless streak finally over there was an opportunity for the team to return to the attacking style of football we had seen before Christmas at Golden Arrows on Saturday. We were not disappointed as the attacking intent was there from the start. Within the first 30 seconds Mayambela had an excellent opportunity to score, but perhaps it came too early in the game. He was again instrumental in the goal that never was just a few minutes later. A truly terrible decision from the linesman ruled out Mosadi’s follow up. In real time it looked a poor call and the subsequent TV images only emphasized just how embarrassingly bad the call was. To the credit of the players, and particularly the coach who was put on the spot by national TV, nobody in the AjaxCT camp lost their cool with the officials. It was just one of those things, but for a side that struggle to score goals on a regular basis it always felt like it would hurt.
Just moments later that hurt arrived big time, as the latest Jody February calamity left Nkanyiso Mngwengwe with an easy finish in what was to be the home sides only on target strike in the whole game. February failed to deal with the ball from a corner-kick in the latest in a string of mistakes that have cost points in recent months. It is true that he was coming under pressure from an Arrows forward, but he had already missed the ball by the time there was contact. It is possible that some referees may have interpreted the challenge as a foul, but our young keeper really needs to be more assertive in these situations. Come out strong and clear everything away, including the ball first and then any players from either side that get in the way. It was windy and the sun was shining, but that is not unusual in South Africa. FIFA rules do allow keepers to wear a cap to keep the sun out of their eyes in such situations, but rather than opt for headgear we saw Jody waving one arm in front of his face to protect his eyes every time there was a corner. Maybe the worry is that in such strong wind the cap might get blown fully into his face at a crucial moment. Given that he has a one-time international goal keeper as a coach we have to assume such options are weighed up before games.
It would have been a travesty if the home side had gone on to win the game given the dominance from AjaxCT. For much of the second half Arrows seemed incapable of moving the ball more than about 30 metres from their goal as a strong wind and a determined visiting forward line continually pushed them back. It still took until the 77th minute before we saw the equaliser from Prince, and by then the home keeper had performed a string of wonderful saves that saw him collect the man of the match award.
It was the sort of performance that Jody February desperately needs to get his confidence back. The mistakes are killing our season, but at the same time we have to remember that all players make mistakes in every area of the field. When a keeper makes a mistake, as the last line of defence it normally ends with a goal conceded. That is not the case for the attacking players that have routinely squandered opportunities to win games through the season. The quality of finishing from some of our squad is currently dismal and with just a little more composure would surely see us winning games like this, even when the home keeper is on form. In particular, Thabo Mosadi and Bantu Mzwakali might want to spend an extra hour after training just simply practicing shooting at goal. Thinking back to the last Cape Derby and the lack of composed finishing shown by Bantu after rounding the keeper and still missing when the game was still goalless. A lapse in concentration as bad as any of Jody’s this season, which also cost us dearly.
The four points gained this week remain the most important thing to dwell on. The elusive victory was ground out and the attacking football came back on show. This side should now finish well clear of the relegation places and we can look forward to being entertained and a bit more relaxed in the remaining fixtures.