After the Denmark match I’m eager to get back to Lansdowne. My first toe-dip into International water has been interesting but I’m looking forward to finishing off Santos’ league campaign. And not only that, I’ve also had an itch to scratch ever since we lost the first Old Cape Town Derby under my regime. It’s time for our return visit to our fiercest rivals: Ajax Cape Town.
I decide to make no changes from the team that lost 0-3 to Supersport in our last outing. There were no individually awful performances that day apart from Carl Lark, but I don’t have many options up top and the lineup that day was about as strong as we can muster, so I stick with it.
It takes only 4 minutes for Doutie’s corner to be flicked on by Pholongo and redirected via the head of Nyambi at the near post, and it takes just over 4 minutes for me to find a water bottle and send it skimming down the touchline with a good satisfying kick. After half an hour it could be 0-2 when Mzwakali cuts in from the left wing and shoots, but he blazes it over the bar from 20 yards.
Some worrying news breaks a couple of minutes later when Joseph Ekwalla goes down and stays down clutching his side. He can play on though, so he does. Lark then celebrates by dribbling the ball forward towards the Ajax CT box, but his shot goes just over.
Sony Norde, back in the squad today after concluding his trip back to Haiti, comes on as a half time substitute replacing Sello Japhta and I’m hoping that after several injuries and International interruptions we’ll finally have a look at what Sony offers to the team in his favoured left wing role.
That seems to do the trick and we come out swinging for the 2nd half. 5 minutes after the break, Ryan Moon chips a cross in from the right and Thoahlane rises like a salmon to power a header towards goal, but the ball cracks against the bar. Within a minute we push forwards again and this time Sony Norde lays the ball off for Moon. The winger sets himself before driving a shot at goal, but it comes back off the far post, completing an absurdly unlucky minute. The score remains 0-1.
Fortunately though we pass on our woodwork lurgy to Ajax 2 minutes later when Doutie’s whipped cross is met by Nyambi, but he too hits the bar with his header. This move signals that the pendulum of play is swinging back at us and a couple more minutes later, Graham runs forward and shoots low, but it’s easy for Komo to collect.
With 23 minutes to go we win a free kick near the left byline. It’s a great opportunity for an equaliser and Ryan Moon steps up. He crosses into the box, but it’s headed clear – And Ajax counter. Their move culminates with Mzwakali’s shot deflecting off Graham’s back and bouncing over to Doutie on the right, who volleys the ball into the bottom corner to double his team’s advantage.
I bring on Siyabonga Zulu and Ernil Mobara for the last 20 minutes in place of Ryan Moon and Aidie Jenniker, who’ve had pretty poor games. It does us little good though and with 12 minutes to go, another Doutie corner is nodded on by Nyambi and tucked in by Cardoso to finish us off. We’ve lost 0-3 to our rivals. Again.
I’ve never had the luxury as a Manager of having a strong enough squad to beat my rivals and it’s really starting to get on my wick. Our chance for this season has gone though and we’ve just got to play our remaining 8 matches, make damn sure we stay in the division, reinforce in the Summer and get them next time.
Joseph Ekwalla thankfully only comes out of the match with a bruised rib, which should heal in a few days. Relegation scrappers Polokwane City are next up and he should be back for the match, but a few days before that Dino Visser, Moe and Sullie all rap on my office door and demand I give them all first team football. Captain Philani Cele tries talking to them but it doesn’t do the slightest bit of good, further reiterating my stance on his future captaincy prospects and forcing me to handle the situation myself. Managing to hide the amusement I find in their bare faced cheek, I simply give them a wry smile and explain that I have other options for their positions who are doing a better job than the 3 of them. Not that the others are setting the league on fire but I reckon even Chappie would offer us more defensively than Moe, and Sullie’s contribution has been equally laughable. They accept my explanation and it calms them down for now, but long-term I’ll have to think of something to appease them once and for all, like dumping them on the pavement outside our stadium on the first day of the Summer transfer window with “£2.50 or nearest offer” tags clipped to their collars.
They say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and I quite agree. My best laid plans for the Polokwane match are to switch to Project: Meatloaf, drop the defensively minded Diale and finally bring in Sony Norde in the number 10 role where I think he’ll flourish. The ‘Of Mice And Men’ reference is quite apt though because the only way that I can explain another fucking injury to Sony Norde is that I absent-mindedly raised Lennie from the dead and recruited him as a fitness coach, and he’s been mistaking the poor Haitian for a puppie and squeezing the shit out of him until he hears something pop.
Norde will miss 5-6 weeks with strained ankle ligaments, so it’s unlikely that the injury was actually sustained by a fictional resurrected oaf and I’ll let Lennie off with a warning if I see him. More annoying news swiftly follows when Liechtenstein’s friendly against Russia is cancelled due to a clash with their match against Austria. I manage to rearrange it for September but I’m fairly sure that that’s when the European International League kicks off so I’m not sure whether we’ll get to play it. I really want this practice match against Russia before our World Cup Qualifier so this is pretty frustrating news.
While I’m at it I also arrange friendlies against Wales, Georgia, Qatar, Costa Rica, Bhutan, USA and China this year, but again I’m not sure how many will be cancelled after the schedule for the EIL is announced.
But every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it’s that I’ve been given the funding by Santos to start studying for my National A License. I’m on my way.
As well as bringing Norde in for Diale I had planned to drop Aiden Jenniker after some less than stellar recent performances, but he’s ruled out anyway for about a week just before the match. Zulu comes in at left back and against my better judgement I select Moe instead of Cele at right back as he’s not been great either. We do still go for Project: Meatloaf but with Sinbad and Diale behind Ekwalla in midfield.
The match is a bit dull to be perfectly honest. Shilongo tests Komo early on, capping a good run with a shot from 25 yards, but our young keeper catches it comfortably. After 25 minutes Ekwalla spots the Polokwane keeper off his line and has a crack from 35 yards but he hits it over, and just after half time Shilongo gets on the end of a knock down from Kumalo but again can’t beat Komo. Ernil Mobara, Philani Cele and Sullie are all introduced but they can’t help us find the breakthrough.
Ordinarily I’d take a 0-0 but I was really hoping for a reaction here. I thought the players would be hurting as much as I was after another thrashing against Ajax but I suppose not. I really can’t wait for the summer, you know. So many of these players are in dire need of being taken down to the river so I can tell them all about how we’re going to get a little place with a cow and pigs and alfalfa for the fucking rabbits.