CAPE TOWN – The most glaring aspect about Saturday’s Cape derby is not so much Cape Town City’s continued dominance over Ajax Cape Town, but rather the disappointing, meek capitulation of the latter. To be brutally honest, City’s performance was just so far superior to Ajax. While City were smoothly enterprisingly, the Urban Warriors looked negative, lacking in confidence and were bereft of any self-belief, both as individuals and as a team.
Rest assured, new Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral has a tough task ahead of him to knock this lot into shape.
As it stands, City are second on the PSL standings with 30 points, four behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, while Ajax are precariously placed second-from-bottom on 16 points. It looks like another relegation scrap is on the cards for the beleaguered club from Parow.
To Ertugral’s credit, he refused to look for excuses and admitted that his team was palpably second best.
“We lost to a better team, we were just not up to the task,” said Ertugral. “City had a better pattern of playing and were more positive in what they did. The big factor was the sending off of Gerald Takawara. He is new to the country and I told him before the game to be careful because referees in South Africa are different.
Even when he got the first yellow, I screamed at him from the line to stop, but he was late on the tackle again. In my opinion, the referee was completely right in his decision - we cannot blame the referee for our mistakes. But, I say again, City deserved the win.”
Ertugral, though, did point to a decision that could have changed the course of the game.
“We had a situation in the first half where we should have got the advantage,” he said. “Tendai (Ndoro) was through, one-on-one with the goalkeeper and you know what he’s going to do in that situation. I’m not blaming anyone, I just think we are a little unlucky at the moment.
“Most importantly, though, we still have a lot to work on with regards to our patterns. The issues right now are our entry into the final third and the dropping off of the defence. On the first, we are getting to the final third too quickly, with the result that there is no support, and on defence our organisation and concentration are disappointing.
But it will take time - like any coach, I need more training sessions. This month, it has been game after game, and there’s not much you can do immediately in such a situation.”
A Cape derby, of course, has to have its flare-ups - and there was one towards the end involving Ertugral and City coach Benni McCarthy. The former Bafana Bafana striker had replaced injured winger Craig Martin with new signing Kwanda Mngonyama; the substitute ran on to the field while Martin was still walking off and the game continued with City having 12 men on the field.
When the action was stopped, Ertugral implored the match officials to book Mngonyama. McCarthy didn’t take kindly to this and stormed out of his technical area to confront Ertugral. For this, McCarthy, pictured, was red-carded.
“Benni is a great player, but he still has a lot to learn as a coach,” said Ertugral. “I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I know that you cannot just walk outside your line and come over to my line. Just because he has achieved as a player, does that mean I have no right to talk? It was within my right to ask the referee for a yellow card for their player.”
With McCarthy banished from the bench, assistant coach Vasili Manousakis faced up to the media afterwards and gave his thoughts on the McCarthy red card: “I would have done exactly the same. The communication between the fourth match official and the referee was poor. Kwanda was told to enter the pitch, and he did as instructed by the official.
Yes, Benni shouldn’t have left his technical area, but then I believe the opposing coach was also not in the spirit of the game by calling for yellow and red cards for Kwanda. But you are going to get such type of moments in football, when emotions run high.”
Nevertheless, it was a good win for City - and, in four derbies against rivals Ajax, they are yet to lose.
“In the end, the three points were important for us,” said Manousakis. “We opened them up in the first half and created some fantastic chances. Then, in the second half, we got the goal from an unlikely source, the head of Craig Martin. But he did tell us before the game that he would score. Overall it was a good outing - Ayanda Patosi hasn’t played for a long time because of injury, but we got a full 90 minutes from him. In short, though, I thought we should have killed them.”