Urban Warriors go down to big brothers

Ajax Amsterdam beat their local affiliates Ajax Cape Town 3-0 in a Total Cup Challenge match at Newlands Stadium on Wednesday night. It was the first of two matches Ajax play during their training camp in South Africa.

Greece's Euro 2004 hero Angelo Charisteas gave the Dutch Champions a 1-0 lead at half-time before Julien Escude and Dutch Player of the Year Maxwell grabbed a goal apiece after the interval.

The visitors' coach Ronald Koeman, presiding over a cosmopolitan squad, made his intentions clear by putting out his strongest available side, which included Bafana Bafana star Stephen Pienaar (as right winger), Dutch internationals Johnny Heitinga, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart.

Cyrille Mubiala and Ajax Cape Town skipper Bradley August, the former Bafana striker-turned defender, were expected to have their hands full, especially dealing with Charisteas' aerial threat.

The visitors were quick out of the blocks with Nourdin Boukhari blazing his shot over bar after pint-sized midfielder Tsholola Tshinyama had cheaply given away possession inside the opening minute.

Moments later the home defence froze and allowed Charisteas to control the ball on the edge of the box only for the striker to drag his shot narrowly wide of Moeneeb Joseph's left up-right.

After 10 minutes, Moeneeb Joseph gathered well after a neat build-up by the visitors culminated in Van der Vaart taking a left-footed shot on goal from the edge of the area.

The hosts' first real chance of the game arrived on the half-hour mark when Nhlanhla Shabalala did well on the left before teeing up Brett Carelse, whose pile-driver from 20 yards out was competently punched away by Maarten Stekelenburg.

Carelse then earned a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Norman Mapeza saw his well-taken effort deflected for a corner, before Brett Evans had a shot deflected for another flag-kick as the hosts grew in confidence.

August had the ball in the back of the after 24 minutes from a Mapeza free-kick delivery, but the effort was ruled out, presumably for offside, although it was Tshabalala rather that August, who was in an offside position.

On the half-hour mark, Joseph had to race off his line to thwart Charisteas after Mapeza had lost possession and Koeman's side looked to capitalise.

When Maxwell unfairly impeded Franklyn Cale's progress on the right to give away a free-kick, Cale picked himself up to conjure an excellent effort which Stekelenburg smothered well.

As action moved to the other end, it was Ajax Amsterdam who would take the lead after 35 minutes from a set-piece.

The home defence was guilty of ball-watching, allowing Charisteas to head home past a hapless Josephs from Van der Vaart's delivery.

Joseph stopped his side from going further behind when he saved well with his feet from Charisteas following a lightening-quick breakaway as the hosts turned defence into attack.

Ajax Amsterdam finished the half strongly and might have added a second on the stroke of half-time, but Boukhari's left-footed shot missed by millimetres.

Both sides made changes at the break, with the visitors introducing goalkeeper Hans Vonk and Ryan Babel for Stekelenburg and Boukhari, while the hosts brought on Ashley Opperman, Mulekelayi Kanku, and Granville Scott.

Andre Petim then entered the fray in Josephs's place after 54 minutes for the 20-year-old's senior debut.

Petim's first task was to pick the ball from the back of his net after Julien Escudé had headed his side into a 2-0 lead from a corner-kick on the hour-mark.

A whole raft of changes followed, which saw both sides bring their compliment of substitutes to six including goalkeepers, with Pienaar among those to depart while Urby Emanuelson made his first appearance since training camp last summer.

Petim then made an excellent double save, first to deny Charisteas before diving bravely at De Jong's feet to deny the substitute a clear shot on goal.

With the match already won and lost, more changes followed, with Igesund, clearly with one eye on Saturday's league match with Sundowns, bringing on Mubiala and Shabalala for Dominic Isaacs and Nathan Paulse respectively.

Maxwell then made a crucial last ditch interception to block Paulse's effort after the lanky striker had connected with Cale's left-wing cross with 10 minutes to play.

Dutch Footballer of the Year Maxwell then rubbed salt into the host's wounds with the Eredivisie champions's third as he finished off a moved he had started himself with five minutes left on the clock.

Koeman was happy with the way his team had played. ,,Although it was a friendly, we wanted to win. Don't forget, we are preparing for the second half of our domestic season. We have to be ready in two weeks. We need good practice and good matches to get back into our rythm. We did well today.''


Many thanks to the official web site of Ajax Cape Town , www.ajaxct.com.