CAPE TOWN - The midweek PSL programme throws up an intriguing scenario as the Mother City takes on the two clubs based in the Free State.
First up, it will be Cape Town City hoping to flush out their mood of despondency when they host Bloemfontein Celtic in a PSL fixture at the Athlone Stadium on Tuesday night (7.30pm). And then, tomorrow, it’s Ajax Cape Town’s turn when they head north to tackle Free State Stars at Goble Park in Bethlehem (kick-off 7.30pm).
For City, though, it’s always vital for a football club to remember past events. If they don’t, chances are it could well happen again. After losing on penalties to SuperSport United in the MTN8 final at the weekend, the Cape side finds itself in such a situation as they prepare for Celtic at Athlone.
Here’s the history lesson for City and their coach, Benni McCarthy: In December last year, after City had won the Telkom Knockout Cup, their next league fixture was a home game against Platinum Stars. Still suffering from the Cup victory hangover, City got hammered 4-0 by the team from Rustenburg.
The Cape side finds itself in a similar position on Tuesday. While this time it’s a Cup defeat the players are dealing with, it’s just as crucial that McCarthy makes sure the team is fully prepared, their emotions are settled, and everybody has moved on from the loss in the Cup. If not, then they could find themselves blown away by an improving Celtic side.
Captain Robyn Johannes is keenly aware of it all. The central defender again led from the front at the weekend - but, while City were defensively sound, it was in attack where they failed to make the most of their opportunities. Johannes, in fact, is still gutted by the defeat, though he stressed that, by the time the Celtic game kicked off tonight, the entire squad would be ready to go.
“After such a defeat, it’s always difficult to get going again especially because we know we deserved to win the MTN 8. But that’s football, and we have to be professional, accept the defeat, move on and focus on the next challenge, which is Celtic,” said Johannes.
“Looking back at that final, our biggest problem is we need to kill games off by taking our scoring chances. But, on the plus side, you can’t fault the effort of the team. It was a really tough game against SuperSport. You could see both teams gave it their all... But it breaks my heart that we didn’t end up as champions.”
Meanwhile, Ajax Cape Town, also swing back into action after the international break. They’ve had a stuttering start to the campaign and will be determined to come home with something from their match against Free State Stars.
During the break, Ajax used the opportunity to promote another promising player from the club’s youth academy to the PSL squad. Kiyaam Bull, an 18-year-old defender who impressed on the club’s U19 tour to the Netherlands earlier this year, is the latest Ajax prodigy to keep an eye on.
“Playing in the PSL will be very difficult,” said Bull. “As a defender, I know there are huge responsibilities as one mistake can result in defeat. I think, playing in the PSL, I need to try and give the team a positive vibe, do my best for the club and the fans and, as for tackling, I will try to shake the strikers up a bit.”
But with Ajax already quite strong in central defence, with Mario Booysen, Isaac Nhlapo and Roscoe Pietersen to choose from, it will be interesting to see how coach Stanley Menzo handles Bull. Will he bring the youngster along slowly or does he decide to throw him in at an early opportunity?
Tuesday: Cape Town City v Bloemfontein Celtic (Athlone Stadium, 7.30pm); Mamelodi Sundowns v Kaizer Chiefs;
Wednesday: Chippa United v Maritzburg United; Free State Stars v Ajax Cape Town (Goble Park, 7.30pm); Orlando Pirates v Platinum Stars; Baroka FC v Golden Arrows; AmaZulu v Polokwane City
Saturday: Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates; Golden Arrows v Polokwane City; Mamelodi Sundowns v AmaZulu; Ajax Cape Town v Bloemfontein Celtic (Athlone Stadium, 8.15pm); Free State Stars v Platinum Stars;
Sunday: Chippa United v Cape Town City; Baroka FC v Bidvest Wits