Ajax look ahead to Arrows showdown

Ajax Cape Town coach Muhsin Ertugral, will have to bring his victorious players back to earth after they reached the MTN8 final by disposing of Kaizer Chiefs 4-3 on aggregate after a six goal semifinal, second leg thriller that ended 3-3 at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday.

Ertugral has to get his players’ minds back onto their Absa Premiership campaign. They play Santos in a Cape Town derby at Newlands on Wednesday night.

Said Ertugral: ”I had a problem when we drew 1-1 with Free State Stars [away] last Wednesday as the players’ minds were obviously on this match, But we need to pick up points and forget about the Cup final at this stage.”

Ertugral has now reached back-to-back MTN8 finals. He guided Chiefs to triumph in last year’s final against Mamelodi Sundowns and is hoping to repeat that with his new club when they meet Golden Arrows in the final on September 26.

The Urban Warriors coach has suggested that Port Elizabeth or Bloemfontein would be his preferred venues for the final.

”The venue is important. PE is at sea level and means it would not favour either Arrows [who are from Durban] or ourselves. But I would have no problem in playing in Bloemfontein.”

Premier Soccer League media manager Altaaf Kazi, said the league would announce the venue in due course.

After both coaches, Ertugral and Amakhosi’s Vladimir Vermezovic, congratulated each other, it was obvious Ertugral’s knowledge of Chiefs players’ weaknesses and strengths played a key role in helping the underdogs overcome Chiefs in front of 40 000 supporters who packed into the revamped Orlando Stadium hoping to see Ertugral and his players leave empty handed.

Said Ertugral: ”It was a great game. We made two bad mistakes in the first half that allowed Chiefs to score and let them back into the game when we should have closed the door tight.

”But I am proud of my boys. We have a young side and showed we have tons of character to beat Chiefs.

”It was not easy in front of a packed Orlando Stadium. Chiefs are going to be a force this season as we saw that today and I think their coach [Vermezovic] is top class and does not get the credit he deserves.”

After the controversy surrounding the first leg at Newlands in which Chiefs fans went on the rampage when Amakhosi were beaten 1-0, the second leg was a tremendous advert for the local game.

Six goals tell the story of a match that flowed from end to end with plenty of good football and inevitable mistakes.

Said Vermezovic: ”I wish Ajax well for the final, but at the end of the day I am satisfied with our performance. The fans go home maybe not happy with the result, but with the way we played.

”It was encouraging.”

Chiefs faced a goalkeeping crisis before the match with their first choice keepers, Itumeleng Khune and Thela Ngobeni, both injured. They signed veteran Arthur Bartman from relegated Bay United last week, but he was not fit and lacked match practice.

So Vermezovic gave a debut to Kabelo Metsimetsi who was signed in the off-season from First Division Carara Kicks.

But despite a shaky performance in which the new keeper conceded a penalty late in injury time, the Serbian coach refused to lay any blame on the debutant keeper and is not likely to change for the Premiership clash against Wits at the same venue on Wednesday night.

”I never like to blame a goalkeeper for a defeat and I am not going to start now. There are 10 players in front of him to prevent
goals and our defence was not as tight as we could be and that contributed to conceding three goals.”

Vermezovic also refused to blame the Cup exit on the fact that key defenders Jimmy Tau, Thabang Rooi and Valery Nahayo are injured.

”The good news is midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala is back and had a great game when he came on in the second half.”

Tshabalala has missed the start of the season and most of the pre-season due to injury but he looked sharp when he scored Chiefs third goal in the 81st minute.

But any hope of a comeback were dashed by the goal of the day from Franklyn Cale four minutes later.

Ajax skipper Brett Evans, scored the other two goals with a free kick and penalty. He also missed with a penalty while Jose Torrealba, Josta Dladla and Tshabalala were Chiefs’ marksmen. — Sapa

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