These Ikapa Derby games are starting to get a bit predictable. Every time Ajax lose, the referee forgets the rules of football and the opposition coach has a meltdown on the touchline, despite his side being in almost total control of the game. Great news for the media, sports reporters and bloggers. It is possible to just change the players names and keep recycling the same old stories.
The talking points from the game will inevitably revolve around the referee and the antics on the touchline, but there was actually some football played as well. It was not a great performance from AjaxCT who started slowly in the heat and struggled to move the ball quickly enough to consistently trouble the ‘home’ side. The experience of Modise and Johannes controlled the game and in Craig Martin the opposition had the man that changed the game. He gave Lebusa a horrible afternoon and was rightly man of the match as well as the winning goalscorer. However, I hope the statuesque Ajax men that he rose above to head home will be putting some hours in on the training field this week.
It is impossible to comment further on the afternoons entertainment without mentioning the role that the referee played in proceedings. When you are on the losing side it is always hard to start commenting on the referee without it sounding like sour grapes. But when you are always on the wrong side of terrible refereeing blunders you tend to end up on the losing side. It is becoming a vicious circle. I can only imagine how the club management must feel after a whole weekend of biting their tongues. Mushin was diplomatic in his responses to the TV interviewers, inside he must have been fuming. Just like the trip on Malepe that was not given as a penalty in the first game (and the ghost goal that was given) the decisions made this weekend would have changed the game. Despite being second best in both games AjaxCT deserved the opportunities they were denied in both of this season’s fixtures. Who knows how each game would then have finished.
It was still goalless when Ndoro rode an unfair challenge to go through on goal in the first half. To not play the advantage and pull the game back for the foul was an awful howler by the referee. As a goalscoring opportunity, if he did not want to play the advantage it was not clear why the official did not issue a red card to the defender. The mistake was compounded by not letting Ndoro take the free kick quickly and then forcing AjaxCT to take the final effort from a position that looked at least 10 meters away from the actual incident.
Referees can make mistakes like this, and even worse howlers, as we sadly see too regularly in the PSL. Although they do not admit it publicly, sometimes they make up for their mistakes by giving the affected side the benefit of the doubt in future decisions. There is no better example of this than the CTC v Polokwane game earlier this season when the officials invented a penalty to give the home side a victory after a horrible error had denied an earlier goal scoring chance. We might have hoped for something similar here, but instead the referee doubled down on his error and gave Gerald Takwara the two softest bookings you could hope to see, especially in a derby. The first appeared to represent a whole new interpretation of the rules of football, where you can be penalised for shielding the ball from an opponent. It is true that having just being booked, the General should have played it calm for a few minutes. A senseless tug on the shirt of a man going nowhere in the middle of the park and it was game over. Some referees may have given a warning and a free kick, especially in lieu of the error he had made earlier.
You can only imagine how Benni McCarthy would have reacted to the situation if his side had been on the receiving end. As the ten men of AjaxCT wilted in the summer heat and with the game under total control he still found a way to lose his mind. His behaviour will likely be the talking point of the week ahead, rather than the football his side played to win another derby. Much of the talk online and in the real world post-match was about how good it is to see such passion on the touchline. But is it really? It is actually just a distraction from the football that we actually paid to see. It should be Craig Martin, not his coach, who the media are talking about this week. But, these are issues for the other side to dwell on. At AjaxCT there are different issues coming out of the game, which saw the club once again slide into the relegation zone. Before the games start to run out we need to find a way to create more for the obvious quality we now have up front and to tighten our defence that never seems able to keep a clean sheet. There still looks like there is enough quality to comfortably avoid relegation, but there have been teams in leagues all around the world that thought the same and ended up disappointing their fans. It must not happen here.