Fireworks lit up the sky above Erica Park, in Belhar, on Friday March 25, during the official opening ceremony of this year’s Metropolitan * -19 Premier Cup, setting the scene for a new lot of star players to emerge.
Commonly known as the Bayhill Cup, in reference to host club Bayhill United, Ajax’s 2016 under-19 squad will hope to emulate goalkeeper Jody February, Riyaad Norodien, Yagan Sasman, Rivaldo Coetzee, Abbubaker Mobara and others who were drafted from the under-19 side in to the club’s PSL side in recent years.
After a disapointing 2015 Premier Cup, the young Urban Warriors came out guns blazing as they landed yet another final in the tough under-19 competition.
Despite going down 1-0 to newly-crowned Premier Cup champions Supersport United, the young Urban Warriors had looked impressive throughout the tournament which reached a dramatic climax, at a packed Erica Park, on Easter Monday.
The six-time champions qualified for their final in spectacular fashion after beating newcomers, and dark horses, Ikapa Sporting 3-0 in the semi-finals.
Before that the Young Urban Warriors had to dig deep before overcoming an equally impressive Hellenic side 2-1 in the quarters.
Their semi-final match against Ikapa started off on an equal footing but as the match progressed, Ajax showed just why they are among the most experienced teams when it comes to this tournament.
They led 1-0 at the half time break and scored two more goals in the second half to win the match convincingly. Ikapa booked their spot in the semis after beating fellow newcomers Atlantic Nacional 3-1 in another exciting quarter-final match on Sunday.
Should Nacional have won the match, the fans would have been treated to the repeat of the under-17 Knockout Challenge final, which took place in Parow last year, where Ajax’s under-17s won 2-1.
In their match against Ikapa, Nacional started off well and looked composed. In fact, the two sides proved to be highly energetic in the early stages. They went to the half-time break with the scores at 1-1.
The game’s turning point came late in the second half. With the score at 1-1 and penalties looming, Nacional coach Keith Paulse substituted goalkeeper Mikhail Dankers with Shaheen Abrahams, who is regarded as a better penalty stopper. Ikapa exploited that situation and took the game to Nacional’s third of the field. That paid off as they scored two quick goals in the dying minutes of the encounter, to win 3-1.