CAPE TOWN – It hasn’t been the best of times for the Mother City’s two PSL clubs.
On Wednesday night, Ajax Cape Town lost 2-0 to Free State Stars in Bethlehem – and seven games into the season, they are languishing third-from-bottom on the log standings, having accumulated just five points.
Cape Town City came unstuck in the MTN8 final at the weekend, and on Tuesday night they lost again – 1-0 to Bloemfontein Celtic at Athlone – and like neighbours Ajax, they need to turn things around, and quickly too.
The good thing about football is that the next game provides an opportunity to rapidly erase the ghosts of the previous fixture.
For both Ajax and City, that opportunity arrives this weekend when both are in action, and needless to say, it’s must-win scenarios, albeit for different motivations.
Ajax host Bloem Celtic at the Athlone Stadium on Saturday night (8.15pm kickoff), while City are in East London to take on Chippa United on Sunday afternoon (3.30pm kickoff).
For Ajax, victory is paramount for two reasons – to calm the team’s relegation fears and at the same time to ease the pressure on Ajax coach Stanley Menzo.
For City, who are in fifth position on the PSL log with 12 points from seven games, victory is essential if they want to stay in touch with the other title challengers.
Menzo must by now be feeling the heat. He’s a professional right down to his toes, so he understands the peculiar dynamics and difficulties of being a football coach – and he will know why his job is now in the glare of the media spotlight.
Menzo has been in charge of Ajax for a year now. Initially, he made a great impact after replacing Roger de Sa, but it hasn’t looked good for quite a while now.
No doubt both the big bosses at Ajax Amsterdam and the local head honchos are very concerned. Last year when De Sa quit, the team were winless after seven games; this time under Menzo, it’s one win after seven games.
As such, for the beleaguered Ajax coach and squad, the best way to respond is a convincing performance and a winning result on Saturday.
But it won’t be easy. Earlier in the week, Celtic saw off Ajax’s much-hyped neighbours City at Athlone – and it wasn’t so much the victory, but rather the energy and commitment of their performance that was even more eye-catching.
As for City, coach Benni McCarthy wasn’t a happy chappy after the defeat to the Bloemfontein side on Tuesday.
The former Bafana Bafana striker gave a number of regular starters a break and offered opportunities to other players in the squad.
As far as he was concerned, not too many put up their hands in what was a dismal display.
McCarthy made it clear that from now onwards rotation was out and he would be playing “the strongest available team”.
In former Cape club Chippa, though, the City coach is aware that he is up against a tough opponent.
“Another difficult challenge, they are a very good footballing side. Against Celtic, we were up against a physical, aggressive team – now we have the opposite.”