CAPE TOWN – Ajax Cape Town spent the entire second half under the cosh in the face of relentless pressure from Orlando Pirates, but they hung on courageously to register a 3-0 win at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night.
With the Soweto side desperate to get back into the contest, they launched wave after wave of attack in a one-sided second half, but they just couldn't breach the Ajax defence.
While it was a victory for the Capetonians, make no mistake, we haven't heard the last of this match. And, more than likely, Ajax are going to have to sit through a few dispute hearings to ensure that they eventually get the three points.
The case of Ajax striker Tendai Ndoro still has a long way to go and, even though he was cleared on Wednesday morning, it's not the end of the saga.
Controversy reigned even before a ball had been kicked in anger in this fixture. With Ndoro having been cleared by the PSL's Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) on Wednesday morning, the Zimbabwean went straight into the starting team. But, subsequent to Ndoro being given the go-ahead to play, the PSL then stated that it disagreed with its own DRC and would be appealing the decision.
Hence, when Ndoro's named appeared on the Ajax team sheet, the first thing Pirates did was to lodge a protest. The Soweto club played the fixture - but, because it looks like the Ndoro saga is far from over, the Buccaneers made sure that they are covered by protesting the player's inclusion.
Ndoro's situation is that he has played for three clubs this season - Pirates, Al Faisaly of Saudia Arabia and Ajax - and FIFA rules state that a player may register with three clubs but he can only play for two.
On the field of play on Wednesday night, though, Ajax weren't prepared to play second fiddle to Pirates. The game plan was excellent in the opening 45 minutes as the Cape side allowed the Buccaneers the ball, but then capitalised on their errors.
Skipper Mosa Lebusa headed in a corner from Yagan Sasman in the 12th minute to give Ajax a 1-0 lead, but Pirates came storming back. Thembinkosi Lorch drilled an effort wide of goal and Justin Shonga was foiled by great tackles on two occasions: first by Roscoe Pietersen and then by the inspirational Lebusa.
Pirates' Luvuyo Memela was also proving to be a handful for the Ajax defence by finding little pockets of space and creating openings with his trickery and invention. As such, Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral countered by making an early substitution, bringing on the industrious Ndiviwe Mdabuka for Tashreeq Morris on the half hour mark to tighten things in midfield.
Three minutes later, Ajax went 2-0 ahead when Ndoro found space down the right, played in the cross and Yannick Zakri swept the ball into the net.
Five minutes before the break, Ajax goalkeeper Brandon Petersen succumbed to injury, after a collision early on in the half, and was replaced by Jody February.
At the start of the second half, the Cape side was dealt another blow when an injured Lebusa couldn't continue and he was replaced by Isaac Nhlapo.
But it was one-way traffic in the second half as Pirates threw the kitchen sink at Ajax in a bid to draw level. Opportunities they had aplenty, with Ajax largely guilty of sitting back too deep. The Soweto side even had a candidate for miss of the season when Innocent Maela was inside the five-yard area, with an empty net gaping, and he still managed to shin the ball over the bar.
But with Pirates pouring players forward in search of a goal, they were always vulnerable on the break - and that was how the cookie crumbled as new signing Siyanda Zwane broke free, crossed into the area, and Zakri tucked in his second of the night to make it 3-0 to Ajax.