Tired Ajax win Total Cup

Ajax played their second of two matches during the training camp in South Africa on Sunday. The team from Amsterdam drew with Moroka Swallows, 2-2, and won the Total Cup, a mini-tournament organised by Ajax Cape Town. Ajax did not look their best, apart from a few moments in the first half. ,,We did not look sharp'', said coach Ronald Koeman.

Ajax were in control for much of the first half. Mauro Rosales, who saw his first action for the team after the winter break, had the first chance. Johnny Heitinga and Angelos Charisteas also tried but missed. Nicolae Mitea was the first player to score. The Romanian winger received the ball from Wesley Sneijder, went around goalkeeper Hendricks and by a defender and put the ball in the corner of the goal.

After that, the home side took over. ,,After the first half everyone was tired'', Koeman said. ,,We are at the end of the training week and it is logical that most of the players are tired.'' But it was not really a good excuse, as Ajax were not the only team to be tired. Moroka Swallows had played a league match on Saturday, less than 24 hours before the match against Ajax. ,,The pitch was a disaster, it was 40 degrees and we just had a seven-hour trip back home'', said coach Gavin Hunt.

McNab showed no signs of fatigue when he put in the equaliser a minute before halftime. The defender beat Hans Vonk with a good free kick: 1-1.

In the second half, Angelos Charisteas was replaced by Ryan Babel. ,,Charisteas was tired, he did not feel well and it showed'', Koeman said. ,,But we let him play a half to work on his conditioning.'' Fifteen minutes later eight more substitutes came on. Only Wesley Sneijder and Hans Vonk remained in the game.

The many substitutions did not improve the level of play. Ajax played with two strikers and rarely set up a good combination. Yet the side did score again, from a set-piece. Wesley Sneijder took a corner kick from the right and Yannis Anastasiou scored from close range.

Maroka Swallows had also made some changes. One new player had the name Motaung on his back but he was McDonald Mukantsi, on trial at Swallows. After Urby Emanuelson had been fouled but there was no whistle, Mukantsi received the ball and fired from 25 yards out. Vonk saw it land right in the goal: 2-2.

The home side pressed on. If Ajax were defeated, Moroka would have won the Total Cup as Ajax could only earn half of the points the other teams could. Minutes before the end, again Mukantsi was dangerous, but he hit the crossbar. The match ended in 2-2 and Ajax can take the Cup back to Amsterdam.

,,They played well”, Koeman said of the opponent. ,,They have good technique, they are quick and strong. It is a pity that we drew, because we always want to win. But it was a good experience for us, to play a team from another continent. We have had a good camp here in Africa. Tomorrow we have our last two training sessions and then we go home. There it's a lot colder, but our families are there.''