History favours Chiefs in close call

2010-04-10 00:00

THE bookies have it pretty tight, but it’s still Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa’s undoubted cup kings of the past 40 years, who have shaved the odds going into tonight’s potentially explosive Telkom Knockout final against Ajax Cape Town at King’s Park.

Ajax assistant coach Wilfred Mugeyi was asked at a press conference earlier this week if it is not a source of frustration for the excellently run Cape side that, despite reaching cup final after cup final, they never get the opportunity to play one of these in front of their home fans.

“Of course not,” he shrugged. “The competition’s rules state that the final must be played at a neutral venue, and Ajax have no say in the matter further,” the ex-Umtata Bucks player reasoned in the languid manner that used to fool so many defenders in his playing days, before he produced that explosive goal-scoring burst.

Still, it does seem a little unfair that, especially when given the uniquely South African anomaly that teams such as Chiefs and Orlando Pirates never truly play in away games given their massive support countrywide, Ajax keep having to play cup finals in Durban or Gauteng.

As Mugeyi pointed out, though — and this was his clinical finish, if you like, in his argument — Ajax have had a pretty handy record playing finals in Durban anyway.

The Capetonians won the season-ending Absa Cup at King’s Park under Muhsin Ertugral in 2007 with a 2-0 victory against Mamelodi Sundowns.

Last season Ajax beat Pirates 2-1 in the Telkom final at Chatsworth Stadium, and the Urban Warriors will be defending their title tonight.

Ertugral, who coached both Ajax and Chiefs in the past four years before a lucrative move to Sivasspor in Turkey, is among those predicting a sizzler tonight.

“I am very happy to see both teams in the final. This is going to be one of the great finals, and an exciting one for supporters. Both teams have exciting young players and are playing attacking football,” the Turk told NewsTime.co.za.

For Chiefs, who finished third in the Premier Soccer League, tonight’s match presents a second-last and perhaps their best opportunity to win silverware this season, in the year of their 40th anniversary, ahead of this month’s Nedbank Cup.

While Chiefs have hit form in the brand of football they have displayed in the Telkom Knockout, they have run dry in front of goal and had to rely on penalty shoot-outs after goalless draws in the first round against Santos, and in the semi-final on Monday against Orlando Pirates, to progress.

In the quarters, Amakhosi could have beaten Mamelodi Sundowns by a far greater margin than the 1-0 scoreline.

The loss of lanky creative winger George Lebese to a groin injury has not helped Amakhosi’s cause.

Both sides will be without their players on duty for Bafana Bafana in the camps in Brazil and Germany — goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, and midfielders Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane for Chiefs; midfielder Lance Davids and young forward Thulani Serero for Ajax.

The Capetonians have been further hit by the loss of influential right-wing Sameehg Doutie, who received his third booking in their 2-0 semi-final victory over AmaZulu in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

With plenty of young talent on display for both sides, though, and a packed stadium, it will take a brave better to put a buck down on there not being plenty of action at King’s Park tonight, no matter what the outcome.

On TV: Kickoff: 8.15 pm — live on SABC1 and SuperSport4

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