Ajax flounder while neighbours Vasco float

Vasco da Gamas Chad McCullum, right, was in top form for his side, playing on the left wing. Here he is in action against PSL side Highlands Park in their group stage match.

Parow-based neighbours Vasco da Gama and Ajax Cape Town didn’t have an ideal 2017 Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup tournament, bowing out in the group stages and the last 16, respectively.

But, as some sort of consolation, Vasco went all the way to reach the plate finals of the competition which took place at Erica Park in Belhar over the Easter weekend.

Winning one and drawing two of their three group matches was not enough for Vasco to go through to the last round of 16.

To their credit, however, coach Luftie Bey’s side started their campaign on a high note, winning their first group match 3-2 against Mitchell’s Plain’s Bayview United.

They then went on to record a 2-all draw against Soweto giants Orlando Pirates before drawing 0-0 against another PSL side, Highlands Park, in their last group match.

Coach Bey described their performance in this year’s tournament as “great”, despite not making it past the group stages.

“Ours was a seriously tough group because we had the likes of Orlando Pirates and Highlands Park, and those are PSL sides with established academies. Having said that, however, we didn’t bother ourselves much about who they were,” he said.

“Our aim was just to take each game as it came and play for a win. Yes, we didn’t lose against Pirates and Highlands Park but that, in the end, was not enough to take us through,” he said.

Their next door neighbours Ajax, who have won the tournament six times and lost in the final of last year’s spectacle after going down 1-0 to Supersport United, were among the favourites to lift this year’s trophy.

But, to their fans’ disappointment, they bowed out in the last 16, losing 3-1 to an inspired PPG Langa side in a dramatic penalty shootout. In what proved to be arguably the best game of the tournament, Ajax came face to face with a team that proved, over the years, to be their nemesis side in this competition.

In their first appearance back in 2015, for instance, coach Gareth Ncaca’s PPG qualified for the last 16 at the expense of the then champions Ajax. And, on Saturday, they showed that they could match the highly-fancied young Urban Warriors.

And, they did exactly that. Their last 16 encounter was a highly contested one and the score, on regulation time, was goalless.

The sides went to extra time and, in a dramatic turn of events, reigning Safa-Cape Town referee of the year Akhona Ndzingo, showed Ajax’s Sirgio Kimmies a red card, following a reckless tackle from behind.

The Langa side pushed men forward but Ajax launched attacks of their own. The match had to be decided on penalties after none of the two sides could break the deadlock.

The penalties themselves were tense and Ajax’s Luke Vester was the first to take a spot kick. The youngster made no mistake, making it 1-0 for his side. Awonke Mlanjeni converted PPG’s first spot kick to make it 1-all. The pressure was now on Ajax’s Jay-Dee Adams. The youngster looked casual and that proved suicidal as he missed the target.

It was, by then, PPG’s chance to take the advantage. And, they did exactly that, with Buzwe Bam making it 2-1. Ajax, at that point, had to score their next spot kick to keep them in the game but PPG goalie, Kwanele Gongxeka, had other ideas, saving Bonga Dladla’s penalty.

And, to make matters more difficult for them, Samkelo Mkiva scored PPG’s third goal. A save by Gongxeka against Ajax’s next spot kick would take PPG to the quarters, and he did exactly that, denying Ajax golden boy, Sonwabile Mfecane, to take his side to the quarter-finals against champions, Supersport United.

Vasco faced off against Atlantic Nacional in the plate finals on Monday, walking away victorious with a final score of 3-0.

In the cup final Supersport United went toe-to-toe with Mamelodi Sundowns, the result of which was not available at the time of going to print.