AjaxCT kicked off this weekends game with Kaizer Chiefs, the ball was played back from the centre circle where it was miss-controlled, recovered and eventually passed straight to an oncoming opposition player. And so the tone was set for another disappointing evening that was full of basic errors and prevented the visiting side gaining any momentum in the game. In the build up to the match, much had been made of the team’s motivation and improved form by the players and local press. However, almost as soon as the game kicked off it was as though the successful past week in Johannesburg had simply not happened.
In fairness, in the first half there seemed to be some sort of a plan. The central midfield sat deep and invited the home side onto them and then looked to win the ball and play it quickly over the top to the wide men Mosadi and the recalled Nemukondeni. In theory there was plenty of space for the wingers to attack, in practice the quality of passing was simply not good enough to set them free. It almost worked a couple of times, with one early attack causing a brief panic in the Chief’s defence. However, on the few occasions that both men did get free there were few players committed forward and with only Morris in the box to aim for there was no realistic chance of a goal scoring opportunity being created. The sight of a tightly marked Morris attempting a chested pass across a penalty area containing exactly zero AjaxCT players neatly summed up the futility of the evening.
Who knows what was said at half time, but the performance in the second half was dreadful. The only intent seemed to be to defend at all costs. If the defensive line had been set up any further back Jody February would have been on the Durban beachfront. Wave after wave of attacks from the home side were repelled by last ditch tackles from a fairly solid visiting defence, but once the ball was won almost every pass forward was given away or over hit into no man’s land. Chiefs may be struggling to find form themselves, but you simply cannot give so much of the ball away and not expect to be punished at some point. The final match statistics showed 17 goal attempts from the home side to just 1 from the visitors. It really was not as bad as this statistic suggests, with many efforts being speculative or poorly executed, but if you just sit back and take a pounding like this eventually something will give.
Of course we have watched this for most of the season, but for the Supersport commentary and pundit team this fixture with Chiefs was one of the few occasions they get to follow AjaxCT for a full 90 minutes. It is hard to argue with Farouk Kahn’s assessment that this is the worst AjaxCT team he has ever seen and in the post-match assessment more questions were asked about what is going wrong with the club as a whole than were asked about the actual game. Carol Tshabalala looked almost embarrassed when she asked Stanley Menzo if he was looking to bring in any quality over the transfer window. It was an obvious question that we are all asking, but his criptic answers just left everyone more confused than before.
“No, there’s enough quality, we need players who can help with keeping the ball more in the team. Keep the organisation. I don’t think they [Chiefs] played. They didn’t have big chances,”
“They had one or two. You have to keep your organisation. Keep the discipline and keep defending on the ball, you have to relax and wait for your moment.”
Those of us that watch this team on a regular basis know there is little quality. What quality there is available is once again coming from within the club with Sirgio Kammies being one of the few that had a good performance on the night. We can see experienced players like Boysen And Pietersen trying hard, but there is just no attacking outlet and every ball they win just ends up coming straight back at them. Despite what he says in public you have to suspect the coach knows his squad is weak and surely that is why he setting up the side more defensively than he did last season. He has to find a balance with creativity and attacking football and will almost certainly need new faces to do that.
These ‘moments’ he speaks off will not just come, they have to be created. We have seen news of transfers coming into the club already, with the transfer window still some weeks away. Behind the scenes it seems there is some urgency to bring about change, but whether the coach still has the support to see it through is debatable. Many fans would like to see the back of him and his dour football of recent months. The entertaining performances that almost earned a top half finish last season now seem like a distant memory. In the chaotic political world of South Africa we often see public figures asked to provide reasons why they should not be suspended or dismissed when their abilities are called into question. It has happened to Shaun Abrahams and Helen Zille. After months of largely woeful football we are left with a team dumped in the relegation zone over the Christmas break. Perhaps the AjaxCT fans should be getting a Christmas message from the coach listing reasons why he should not be moved on. It is hard to imagine what they could be right now.