Cape Town - New Ajax Cape Town coach Stanley Menzo is about a month into his new job. He’s had three games in charge - a draw, a defeat and a win - and he’s gradually ushering in his way of doing things at the struggling Cape club.
On Wednesday, though, the former Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands goalkeeper is in for his toughest assignment as a coach in the PSL.
Ajax host Mamelodi Sundowns at the Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm) - and, by Menzo’s own admission, he knows his team is in for a big, big challenge.
Sundowns are the team of the moment.
Defending PSL champions, they also went on to be crowned African champions after beating Egypt’s Zamalek last month. At the weekend, the Pretoria club demonstrated, in no uncertain fashion, that they are intent on retaining the PSL title when they thrashed Highlands Park 5-0.
Right now, Sundowns are playing some smart, entertaining football - Ajax are going to have to be at their very best if they are to get something from a difficult fixture against the continent’s best football side.
“From what I’ve seen of Sundowns, they are very good, a top team,” said Menzo.
“It won’t be easy for us to get a result â€¦ But they are human and they have moments of weakness. It’s up to us to bring our best. We have to stay in the game and try to hurt them.
“We have to make sure that we don’t concede and that we play with confidence.”
For Menzo, as he attempts to turn things around at Ajax, the biggest concern is the manner in which the team is conceding goals.
Last week, the Cape side, after 10 games, registered their first win of the season - 3-2 over Platinum Stars in Rustenburg. But the problem again was their fragility in defence. Leading 3-0 at half-time, Ajax couldn’t kill the game off, Platinum rattled back to 3-2 and the Capetonians had to hang on to get the win.
“It is a problem,” admitted Menzo. “After the game against Platinum we spoke at length to the players. We analysed things through intense video sessions, we’ve worked on a few things at training and, at the moment, it’s something we are really focusing on.”
For Menzo, the philosophy is always that, when his team takes the field, they already have a point in the bag. The idea is not to concede to maintain that point - and then to go and try win it by making use of their scoring opportunities. Going into Wednesday’s match, the approach won’t change - and the Ajax coach also has no intention of changing the game plan or the system either.
“At training, we try to improve the way we play,” said Menzo. “We want to get better, but we also want to play the way we want to play â€¦ we won’t change anything because we are playing Sundowns. We want to control the game, we know we will get chances to score, we just have to be efficient in finishing it off.”
The good news is that there aren’t too many injury or suspension worries. The only player doubtful is defender Abel Mabaso, while Tashreeq Morris and Nathan Paulse have recovered from their injuries and are back in contention for selection.
Menzo was also happy that many of the team’s youngsters, who were busy with school exams over the last few weeks, will now be available. The new coach has already signalled his intention of blooding a few of his emerging young players, with midfielder Grant Magerman and defender Shane Saralina thrown on to the park in recent games.
This week’s PSL fixtures
Tuesday: Kaizer Chiefs v Cape Town City; SuperSport United v Wits; Maritzburg Utd v Chippa United
Wednesday: Ajax Cape Town v Mamelodi Sundowns; Golden Arrows v Polokwane City; Free State Stars v Platinum Stars; Baroka FC v Orlando Pirates; Highlands Park v Bloemfontein Celtic
Friday: Wits v Cape Town City
Saturday: Mamelodi Sundowns v Free State Stars; Platinum Stars v Polokwane City; Chippa United v Kaizer Chiefs; Orlando Pirates v Highlands Park; Ajax Cape Town v Golden Arrows
Sunday: Bloemfontein Celtic v SuperSport United; Baroka FC v Maritzburg Utd