A GOALLESS draw in the first leg of a cup semi-final is an eerie result, the type of eeriness you get when wandering through a graveyard in the dead of night.
Not quite with the theatrical mist and sounds, though, but it is the type of result the home side for the second leg are extremely wary of.
Not least so Ajax Cape Town coach Maarten Stekelenburg, who is busy planning the downfall of Kaizer Chiefs ahead of tomorrow’s MTN8 semi-final second leg at Cape Town Stadium.
The first leg at the FNB Stadium ended in a goalless stalemate. And some people are already suggesting the visiting Amakhosi have got the upper hand going into the return leg.
Mostly because one goal basically counts as two for the away team, as the home side have to score twice to get a favourable result. So what do you do if you’re the home side? Do you continue playing your attractive brand of football and open the game up, or do you go the conservative route and sit back and defend and try to catch your visitors on the break?
It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation for Ajax. But one thing we can all be sure of is that Chiefs are only going to play one way – attack. They don’t know any other way.
So, do Ajax fight fire with fire? Or do they bring out their fire truck?
Sitting back and defending has never been the Ajax way. And if you phone former coach Foppe de Haan and tell him they are considering it, he might fly all the way back from his little island holiday and toss a few choice French words around.
It seems Stekelenburg is yet to make up his mind on how they are going to approach the match, bearing in mind Ajax are coming off a rather bruising encounter with Santos on Wednesday night. The players looked rather tired in the last quarter, something of a worry when factors like extra time and penalties can come into the mix tomorrow.
“Chiefs are playing away, so it will be difficult for them. They have to score, so that will put more pressure on them. At the same time, we have to be careful not to concede, because if they score one, that means we will have to score two,” Stekelenburg said yesterday.
“So we will have to decide how we approach the game. We can either look to attack and get an early goal to put them under pressure, or we can sit back and defend for as long as possible and look to score late on.”
But, Stekelenburg says, the Urban Warriors will at least go into the match with a lot of confidence after last week’s draw and Wednesday night’s 1-0 derby win over Santos – a result that has left the People’s Team with no points from three matches.
“The draw (at FNB Stadium) and the win last night have given us a lot of confidence. We are confident of getting a good result. If we play well, we can beat them,” the Ajax coach added.
One thing is certain: that the Cape side will have to be at their very best to beat Chiefs. Especially because they have a makeshift defence, with midfielder Thato Mokeke slotting in next to Nazeer Allie.
Both players were good against Santos, but Kaizer Chiefs are definitely going to ask many more questions than Santos on attack.
“We will have to play our best football and try to settle quickly,” captain Granwald Scott said yesterday. “We can’t make any mistakes, and will have to take our chances when they arrive.”
MTN 8 SEMI-FINALS
Tomorrow: Ajax Cape Town v Kaizer Chiefs (Cape Town Stadium, 8.15pm).
Sunday: Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates (Loftus Versfeld, 3pm).
15 lucky Cape Times readers can win double tickets for tomorrow’s MTN8 semi-final second leg between Ajax Cape Town and Kaizer Chiefs at Cape Town Stadium. To enter, SMS the word “CTAJAX” plus your name and surname to 34445. Lines will be open between 9am and 1pm. Each SMS costs R2. Winners will be contacted by telephone.