CAPE TOWN - Football, in the experienced words of Ajax Cape Town coach Stanley Menzo, is a game of mistakes. The former Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper’s verdict proved to be spot-on as his Ajax side lost 2-0 to neighbours Cape Town City in a tense, enthralling derby at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
“Most football matches are decided by mistakes,” a disappointed Menzo said after the defeat to City. “We made a mistake for their first goal (Zambian midfielder Rodrick Kabwe foolishly giving away the ball) and the referee made a mistake in not giving us a penalty.”
Menzo is right, in that the big decisions went the way of his neighbours. It would appear that City coach Benni McCarthy’s complaints about match officials had some effect. Can we deduce that he has learnt from the best: his former coach Jose Mourinho? (It is, of course, a popular Mourinho strategy to sow the seed of uncertainty in the mind of the man with the whistle).
The penalty shout, when City defender Taariq Fielies fouled Tercious Malepe, was a definite penalty. And there was also a suspicion of off-side in the build-up to City’s second goal late in the match.
But, all in all, though, despite this, Menzo admitted that, in the end, Ajax were the instigators of their own defeat.
“We didn’t start very well,” said the Ajax coach. “It allowed City to overload the midfield and we just couldn’t get hold of them. We gradually got back into the game, but still our ball possession was not as fluid as City. Even when we did much better in the second half, the stutter stayed in our game.
“We worked hard, but were not good enough to win. In the end, City were a bit more mature than us. Our final pass was lacking, we didn’t create enough chances and, at the moment, there are just not enough goals in the team.”
The Cape derby has certainly been revitalised, and both Menzo and McCarthy said they enjoyed the occasion. The hype around the fixture was tremendous, and around 17 000 people rocked up at the stadium, which was double the crowd of last season’s derby. It’s clear that this fixture will continue to grow, especially in light of the spicy animosity between the two clubs.
“I really enjoyed the derby,” said Menzo. “There was a nice atmosphere in the ground, it was good for football, good for the city.”
McCarthy said: “I want to thank the people of Cape Town for coming out and making the game what it was. It was spectacular, it was unbelievable. I always knew that the people of Cape Town had it in them, and it was a great turn-out. So I’d like to thank them for supporting South African football.”
For City, it’s three wins on the trot in this bitter Mother City rivalry - 2-0 at the weekend; 2-0 and 1-0 last season. Ajax will reflect on the fact that they are yet to score a goal against the noisy, upstart neighbours from Green Point.
What all this does do is to ratchet up the pressure and tension ahead of the next Cape derby, scheduled for January next year. We can’t wait.