Ajax unable to break down Free State

Ajax Cape Town and Free State Stars played to a 0-0 draw in a tight, tactical duel at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday night.

But while there may have been no goals to celebrate, there was the performance of new Ajax signing Yannick Zakri to enthuse over.

For a team so bereft of attacking intent over the last season or two, Zakri was a breath of fresh air for the Cape side.

The Ivory Coast striker, on loan from Sundowns until the end of the season, was at the heart of everything good that Ajax produced.

His confidence on the ball, pace, link-play and his uncanny ability to dribble his way out of tight situations were a joy to watch.

Zakri is certainly going to have a major influence on how Ajax perform during the rest of the season.

Stars, though, gave as good as they got. They demonstrated just why they are so loftily-placed on the PSL standings – they were supremely organised, had great shape and structure, wonderful energy and commitment, and they will definitely be a team to be reckoned.

Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral unveiled a new-look starting team, with the clear intention of tightening things up at the back while, at the same time, presenting an offensive face.

Roscoe Pietersen was brought in at right back in after a spell out with injury, promising young left back Yagan Sasman got a start, and captain Mosa Lebusa was shifted to the centre of defence.

Grant Margeman, also back from injury, provided the creative impetus in midfield, while in attack, there was the effervescent presence of Zakri and the tireless running of Fagrie Lakay.

The game got off to a slow start, as both teams battled to find their feet, with Stars’ Tebogo Potsane shooting wide and Tercious Malepe of Ajax having an effort saved by goalkeeper Ali Sangare.

But once Ajax settled and started to find their feet, with especially Zakri in supreme form, they created a few opportunities.

Zakri should have finished off a Lakay cross, but couldn’t sort his feet out and the chance went begging, and minutes later, the Ivory Coast striker was foiled again, this time by a neat interception from Stars’ veteran defender Rooi Mahamutsa.

There was a chance for the Free Staters early in the second half when Nyiko Mobbie struck a fierce drive from range, but Ajax goalkeeper Brandon Petersen pulled off an acrobatic save to keep his team in the game.

The teams went at it and there was plenty of goal-mouth action at both ends, but both struggled to find the decisive move that would end in a goal.

Stars had a great opportunity to take the lead when Nhlanhla Vilakazi curled in a delightful shot, but the ball unfortunately hit the woodwork.

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