CAPE TOWN – The future of Rivaldo Coetzee has been the subject of much debate and discussion.
But, when the 20-year-old Ajax Cape Town central defender was really needed by his team, he popped up to score the equalising goal in a 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
It was Coetzee’s first-ever goal in the PSL.
Making the player’s performance and game-saving goal all that more rewarding is the fact he has been through a difficult time over the last few months.
He failed to turn up for the first few weeks of Ajax’s pre-season training programme, trying to force the Cape side into action with regard to his future.
It’s no secret that the defender from Kakamas in the Northern Cape craves a move overseas.
The situation was eventually resolved and Coetzee returned to training. The latest news with regard to a possible transfer is that Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic have joined the queue.
But, with all that still up in the air, Ajax coach Stanley Menzo took a gamble on Coetzee, even though he is not yet fully fit, and the player repaid the faith with the all-important goal.
Five minutes after scoring, Coetzee had run his race, was out of steam, and Menzo replaced him with Yagan Sasman.
Ajax started the match with two players making their debuts for the club – central defender Isaac Nhlapo and striker Sedwyn George.
The opening half was typical of the issues that have bedevilled the Cape side over the last few seasons, in that they dominated possession with slick build-ups, but lacked a cutting, clinical edge in and around the penalty area.
Zambian Rodrick Kabwe stabbed an effort wide and George’s excellent long range strike was brilliantly saved by Arrows goalkeeper Nkosingiphile Gumede.
But Arrows, always a difficult team to come up against because of their unorthodox, hard-running style of football, gave as good as they got, especially on the counter.
And, with Musa Bilankulu and Kudakwashe Mahachi pulling the strings in the middle, and the unsettling pace of Lerato Lamola and Wayde Jooste troubling the Ajax defence, the Durban team made sure the Capetonians were kept on their toes.
For their persistence and relentless industry, Arrows were rewarded when fortune smiled and they took the lead via a rather bizarre goal in the 24th minute.
Ajax goalkeeper Brandon Petersen had intelligently anticipated a through ball and came scurrying out of his goal to avert the danger – but, rather than hoofing clear, he tried to pass the ball and instead it hit Lamola, and trickled into an empty net.
A lucky goal, it may have been, but Arrows weren’t complaining. And it, again, showed up the inexperience of the young Petersen.
As the game opened up, there were scoring opportunities on both sides. Mahachi should have increased the lead, when set up by a great run from Jooste, but fired wide.
At the other end, Makua went close, while George, who looked really promising on his PSL debut, squeezed an attempt wide of the target.
Coetzee brought Ajax level four minutes into the second half, turning in a header from Kabwe’s corner.
The equaliser was the catalyst for Ajax to take charge of the second half and go in search of a winning goal.
But, as hard as the Cape side tried, Arrows proved to be too tough to break down, and the game ended all square.