Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, PE - Ajax Cape Town got out jail on Friday night as they snatched a 1-1 draw against a rampant Chippa United.
Spurred on by their new partisan support in their new home base in Port Elizabeth, Chippa threw everything into the attack against their former neighbours. They looked on course to win when, moments before the end, substitute Thabiso Nkoana trickled in an equaliser.
The PE side were good value for money and certainly deserved to have won as they were far more urgent in attack and hungrier for the win.
But Ajax will be happy with the point as it keeps their unbeaten record intact.
It was a point again founded on the solid defence of youthful centre-back duo Rivaldo Coetzee and Abbubakar Mobara and the combative midfield pairing of Granwald Scott and Travis Graham.
Ajax made just one change to their starting team, from the one that so impressively dispatched Wits on Tuesday, and it was a change that coach Roger de Sa has been dying to make.
Malawian forward Robin Ngalande received his work permit on Thursday and the Ajax coach did not hesitate in immediately picking the player to start.
Chippa United had Fatau Dauda in goal, the keeper who had done so well for Ghana at the World Cup in Brazil, while they also boasted David Zulu in attack, the former Black Leopards striker who was last week surprisingly selected in the Bafana Bafana squad.
In an enterprising opening half, Chippa and Ajax quickly showed they were in the mood. Both sides had early half-chances, with Ajax’s in-form Nathan Paulse going close and, at the other end, Mhlengi Cele foiled twice.
This season, the Cape team have adopted a new approach for games on the road. They sit a little deeper and are more cautious and focused.
As the first first half wore on, though, an energetic and enthusiastic Chippa had short periods of dominance and they were unlucky when a Thami Sangweni free-kick struck the crossbar.
The PE club continued to press forward with gusto in the second half and club captain Andile Mbenyane, a former Ajax player, was twice prevented from giving his team the lead. First, he stabbed an opportunity agonisingly wide and, then, a thunderous shot was brilliantly saved by Finnish goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola.
The Capetonians were also very fortunate in the 65th minute when no one stepped in to stop a driving run from Chippa left-back Siyabonga Zulu, who unleashed a vicious shot that cannoned off the woodwork.
With 20 minutes to go, the rain came bucketing down, but Ajax had no respite from the marauding Chippa attacks. The goal had to come and it duly did in the 82nd minute when substitute Mxolisi Ntshingila’s booming angled shot was too hot for even Jaakkola to handle as the velocity of the ball nearly broke the net.