South Africa: Ajax back in the hunt as title race hots up
South African football’s biggest clubs and arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs lead the way in the ABSA Premiership with Ajax Cape Town close by hoping for them both to slip up in what could be one of the country’s most exciting title races for years. There are nine games to go and just two points separating Orlando in first place from Ajax in third.
SuperSport United, champions for the previous three seasons, are nowhere to be seen this time languishing in thirteenth place in the sixteen team league and have, thus, left it to the country’s big two and Ajax Cape Town to dream of lifting the championship trophy. Ajax were the big winners this weekend after closing the gap following their 2-1 win away on Saturday evening at local rivals Vasco da Gama Cape Town. Ajax, who are owned by the famous Dutch club of the same name, had the lead at half-time through a Thulani Serero goal in the 26th minute but Vasco da Gama, named after the famous Brazilian club although not connected to them, restored parity six minutes after the break with Francois Adams scoring the equalizer. The winner for Ajax came with thirteen minutes to play as Serero bagged his second of the game to gift the three points to his side.
Orlando Pirates, who were most recently South African champions eight years ago, could only muster a 1-1 draw at home on Sunday to 11th place AmaZulu Durban with all the excitement coming in the last three minutes of the match. Lehlohonolo Majoro thought he’d won it for AmaZulu when he struck in the 87th minute but the home side deprived the visitors of victory with a stoppage time equalizer through Happy Jele. The dropped points could’ve proven costly to the Pirates but they were let off after closest challengers Kaizer Chiefs allowed their hosts Santos FC, another club from Cape Town with a famous name, to steal a march twice in their game before securing a 2-2 draw. Kaizer Chiefs, who last won the championship in 2005, were behind after 23 minutes after Santos Wana gave his side the lead but Knowledge Musona equalized from the penalty spot seven minutes before half-time. Santos FC, who lie sixth in the standings, re-took the lead on 52 minutes through Jurie Basie only to see Sthembiso Ncobo secure the point for the Chiefs with quarter of an hour remaining.
With 21 of the 30 rounds played Orlando Pirates lead the table with 45 points, two ahead of both Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town. Kaizer Chiefs are in second place thanks to a goal difference of +15, three better than Santos FC. The next round of games could go some way to determining the destination of the trophy with the country’s biggest game to feature in Soweto as the Chiefs have home advantage against the Pirates next Saturday afternoon. Before that on Friday Ajax Cape Town will hope to leapfrog over their two title rivals, even if it’s only for a few hours, with a win at home to eighth place Free State Stars.