Cape Town – Ajax Cape Town coach Roger De Sa saw plenty to be excited about during his side's Nedbank Cup clash with Mamelodi Sundowns on Friday, despite the 1-0 defeat.
De Sa was confirmed as the Urban Warriors head coach on Thursday, taking over from interim manager Ian Taylor, who had stepped up from the assistant coach's role after the departure of Muhsin Ertugral last month.
De Sa was on the bench at the Athlone Stadium, but took a backseat, allowing Taylor to call the shots while he scribbled down notes.
For the former Wits and Orlando Pirates coach, the match against the Brazilians was perhaps more about fact-finding than results.
“Of course we always play to win. It doesn't matter what team you put out,” De Sa said when questioned about the Ajax line-up, which was very youthful.
“But there were players with niggling injuries and fatigue, so Ian decided to keep those guys for the next match. So it was a little bit of precaution, but it wasn't a question of playing a team as a trial run.
“There were a lot of players that I haven't seen first hand before, so I got to do that. For me personally I used it to try and absorb as much as I could, because I didn't even see the training session yesterday.”
Having seen his new team in action, De Sa was confident he had the material to build a good side in the future.
“There was a lot of positives for me, having watched them this close, because I didn't even attend a training session,” he said.
Some very good performances, some very good players. It's a young team, every time I ask Ian, 'how old is he? He's 19. How old is he? He's 19'.
“Then I stopped asking because I realised they are all youngsters. A lot of them have got great quality. Of course there are areas we can work on, but we will try and improve in the near future.”
He said there was a lot of work to be done, but there was quality going forward.
“Sundowns are a quality outfit, and we tried to make it as difficult as possible and I think we did.
“I told Pitso that the next time he comes here it might be a little bit more different.”
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane was gracious in victory, admitting that a moment of individual brilliance (in the form of Rodney Ramagalela's brilliant 60th minute strike) was all that separated the two sides at Athlone.
“Our games with Ajax are always thrillers. Last time we came here in the Nedbank Cup it was the same result, 1-0. Amazing goals, not normal goals,” he said.
“Last time it was Langerman, now it's Ramagalela. Ask them to do it again, they won't do it again. It's unbelievable, that's how football is, sometimes luck goes your way.
“What a team we played against, what courage the boys had of Ajax. In my opinion Ajax should not be where they are.”
Mosimane said Sundowns got time to rest while Ajax did not.
“We had fresh legs, but still look what happened, they made us run for their money,” he said.
“A cup game, a difficult cup game. We played well in patches, but we could have been better in terms of taking the right decisions in front of the goal.” – Sapa