CAPE TOWN – Ajax Cape Town are braced for a nail-biting finish to the PSL season - and, as things stand, they are going to have to win two of their remaining three games to ensure their PSL safety. The last three fixtures are Baroka (home), Mamelodi Sundowns (away) and Kaizer Chiefs (home).
If you’re an Ajax supporter, then you’d better stock up on those blood pressure pills - prepare for a tense, nervy end to the season.
The Cape side comes off a good week, picking up four points, after a 1-0 win over Bidvest Wits on Wednesday and a 1-1 draw with Chippa United on Sunday. Despite this, Ajax are still in serious danger of finishing second-last and having to negotiate the tricky play-off campaign at the end of the season.
The basement of the PSL standings read as follows: Platinum Stars prop up the table with 21 points, and then Ajax on 28, SuperSport United 29, Polokwane City 30 and Golden Arrows on 31 points. The bottom club will more than likely be Platinum and they will be relegated to the National First Division.
The team finishing second-from-bottom will have to play off against the clubs ending second and third in the NFD; this is the scrap in which Ajax, SuperSport, Polokwane and Arrows will be involved - and this is what the Capetonians desperately want to avoid.
After the draw with Chippa, Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral wasn’t satisfied with the manner in which his side played. But, with his team having a break this week, he will be using the opportunity to work on a few areas troubling him.
“I wasn’t happy,” said Ertugral. “We knew they (Chippa) would come at us, so we blocked their plays and they couldn’t come between our lines. We also won the second balls very well - but once we won the ball we couldn’t hold on to it. That was the main problem - we got the ball but then couldn’t keep it in the midfield. Because of this, the strikers couldn’t get into the right positions.
“And then, on the goal they scored, it was the same old story when we conceded from a corner. It’s something we work on all the time, but again we lost concentration and they were able to take the lead.
“But we changed things slightly, took off a defender and brought on an attacker, and we had the game completely in the closing stages. We had quite a few chances and it was only a matter of time before we scored.”
Ertugral admits there is still a lot of hard work ahead and his team will have to stay focused during what is certain to be a highly pressurised final three games. But he remains confident - and, in his opinion, they need another two wins to be safe.
“It will be tight, it will probably go all the way to the last game,” said the Ajax coach. “The teams are on 28, 29, 30 and 31 points, anything can still happen - but, for me, I think it is possible to get the two victories we need.”
Ertugral may be upbeat about his team’s chances of survival, but it’s a big ask - and Ajax are going to need every ounce of ability and character from each and every member of the squad. The one positive is that the players have shown the necessary fight and determination in the past few fixtures, hence the four points in the last two games.
But, make no mistake, they are going to need a lot more in the final run-in: Baroka are probably the most unpredictable team in the PSL - on their day, they could beat just about any team; they are not to be under-estimated. Sundowns have been, by a country mile, the best team in the country this season; and Chiefs, after falling away in recent weeks, are desperate to finish on a high.
If Ertugral’s summing up of the situation is correct, then Ajax have to win twice. Take your pick.