From Ajax To Ajax- 2019 Nedbank Cup Final

Pre-Match

The stage is set for the final at the sold-out Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. Ajax Cape Town, First Division champions and 8-0 semi final winners against Orlando Pirates, who have struggled to a 10th-placed finish in the Premiership this season but have fared much better in cup competitions, winning the MTN 8, reaching the quarter finals of the CAF Champions League, and making the final in this competition off the back of a huge semi final win of their own, a 5-0 smashing of Bidvest Wits. Orlando will have three men missing from this final due to injury, while we will be missing the injured Sirgio Kammies (who wouldn’t have started anyway) and starting defensive midfielder Riyaaz Koopstadt, who is at the U-20 World Cup with South Africa. Orlando are slightly favored, but we have every reason to believe we can win this match, especially considering how many better Premiership teams we have already beaten to get here. It’ll be up to the players to go out and get the job done.

And here are the players, as we set up in our usual holding 4-3-3 against Orlando’s 4-4-2. Brandon Petersen gets the nod in goal for us, who could end his time at the club with glory. The standard 1st XI back line is in place except for Khumalo, who I’ve replaced with the more productive Sasman (who will be replacing him for good next season). Bull is waiting on the bench as both an excellent defensive option and a huge set piece threat. Takwara fills in for the missing Koopstadt, the former having quietly had an outstanding season for us but will leave due to work permit concerns. Margeman and Nel start ahead of him, with Monama as a dangerous replacement on the bench. Morris and Mosadi fill the wings as usual, with Phiri also primed to enter from the bench if needed. Verhaar has become the 1st XI striker over Nxumalo, so his inclusion here is now the norm.

On the opposing side, I’ll be hoping Brilliant Khuzwayo doesn’t perform as his name suggests in goal. I’ll also be wary of both left back Innocent Maela- who has the exact same stats as Sasman- and striker Justin Shonga, who has scored an impressive 24 goals this season.

It’s time to go out there and win this. Gaan!


The Match

We are underway in Bloemfontein!
7'

 Seven minutes in, and Ajax Cape Town have the lead! Orlando started aimlessly passing the ball around their area, and Thomas Verhaar had the awareness to make the interception off Xola Mlambo and immediately unleash a fiery drive past Khuzwayo in goal from 20 yards out! What a goal for the underdogs so early in the match! How will Orlando Pirates respond?

Orlando Pirates 0 Ajax Cape Town 1

16'

Nine minutes later, and it’s two! Yet again Ajax Cape Town prove their quality from set pieces! Mosadi’s corner found its way to Takwara 16 yards out, who was unlucky to hit the bar, but it’s none other than Verhaar who’s there to volley in the rebound from close range! Not even 20 minutes played and Ajax Cape Town have a strong lead here!

Orlando Pirates 0 Ajax Cape Town 2

28'

This is unbelievable! Ajax Cape Town up three before the half hour mark! A quick one-two from a free kick gives Mukumela the space to ping an absolutely outrageous cross to the back post, where Mosadi is waiting to fire it past Khuzwayo for 3-nil! Surely this match is over already?

Orlando Pirates 0 Ajax Cape Town 3

33'

Hold on, there might be a way back into this game for Orlando Pirates! They’ve been quiet all game so far but they’ve struck here, a deep cross from the right back Lorch finding Shonga close in, who scores his 25th goal of the season. There’s still a mountain to climb here for Orlando but it’s significantly shorter now!

Orlando Pirates 1 Ajax Cape Town 3

Half Time

A comfortable lead for us at half time, buoyed by a clinical opening half hour. I will be playing it safe in the second half, dropping all our instructions to standard levels. 45 more minutes and we will have the trophy, all we need to do is keep our heads.

64'

It’s a second for Orlando Pirates! Mahachi’s venomous free kick is dispatched on the header by Gabuza, who Ajax’s full backs Sasman and Mukumela failed to pick up. This game looked done and dusted but it’s anyone’s to win now!

Orlando Pirates 2 Ajax Cape Town 3

90'

We enter three minutes of stoppage time here at the Free State Stadium. Orlando Pirates have really come into the game in this second half, but they still trail Ajax Cape Town two goals to three. Ajax went defensive with five at the back after that second Pirates goal and it seems to have worked so far, but the men in black will be pushing even harder now. Can the underdogs hold on in these last few minutes?

90+3'

That’s it! They have held on! Ajax Cape Town are this year’s Nedbank Cup champions! The second-tier side have shown they belong among the big boys not just tonight, but throughout their whole run! They’ve beaten SuperSport, Cape Town City, Sundowns in that incredible semi final, and now Orlando Pirates in the final! An amazing achievement for Shaka Roosevelt and his players, who we will definitely look forward to seeing in the Premiership next season! Good night from Bloemfontein!


Post-Match

Wow, what an incredible cup run this has been. As confident as I was that we would be getting promoted this season, I definitely wasn’t expecting a double. The result against Sundowns was the highlight of our season, and this win in the final is just the icing on the cake, even if we didn’t end up defending our big lead as well as we should have.

This cup run has given me reason to be very optimistic about our potential performance next season, as we’ve already beaten some of the best sides the Premiership has to offer with the squad that was given to me at the beginning of the save. With three future transfers secured for next season and more likely to follow, I can only imagine how dangerous our squad will be before long. Also, whoever got this side relegated in 2018 ought to be even more ashamed of themselves now!

The biggest reward of this cup win is a spot in the CAF Confederation Cup (Africa’s Europa League equivalent), so we will be playing continental football next season, which is way ahead of schedule. I genuinely can’t wait to play on the continent, as nothing excites me more in FM than trips to faraway countries to play teams I’ve never heard of!

I’ll put up the season review later today, after I play the Real Kings match. Then it’ll be time to crack on with next season! Something tells me it’ll be even more exciting than this one… stay tuned.

Gaan! Gaan! Gaan!

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