Project Playground (PPG) Langa produced another excellent performance in this year’s Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup, going all the way to the quarter-finals, before losing 4-0 against eventual winners Supersport United at Erica Park in Belhar at the weekend.
The side, however, didn’t walk away empty-handed as they won the competition’s midsection title, beating 2015 champions, Glendene United 1-0 in the final, on Easter Monday.
Their best performance of the competition, however, came when they sent six time champions and favourites, Ajax Cape Town, home in the last 16.
In what proved to be one of the best matches of the competition, coach Gareth Ncaca’s side showed no respect for their highly fancied opponents. The star-studded Ajax squad – which had first team players Lutando Mateza, Sirgio Kammies and rising star Sonwabile Mfecane – was caught off guard as PPG came at them with pace and skill. The Langa side went on to win 3-1 following a dramatic penalty shootout.
PPG have proved, over the years, to be Ajax’s nemesis in this competition. In 2015, when they made their first appearance at the competition, Ncaca’s charges qualified for the last 16 at the expense of the then champions Ajax.
Saturday’s last 16 encounter was a highly contested affair and the score, on regulation time, was goalless. The sides went to extra time and, in a dramatic turn of events, reigning Safa-Cape Town referee of the year Akhona Ndzingo, from Site C, showed Ajax’s Sirgio Kimmies a red card, following a reckless tackle from behind.
The match had to be decided on penalties after neither side could break the deadlock.
The penalties themselves were tense and Ajax’s Luke Vester was the first to take a spot kick. The youngster made no mistake, making it 1-0 for his side. Awonke Mlanjeni converted PPG’s first spot kick to make it 1-all. The pressure was now on Ajax’s Jay-Dee Adams. The youngster looked casual and that proved suicidal as he missed the target.
It was, by then, PPG’s chance to take the advantage. And, they did exactly that, with Buzwe Bam making it 2-1. Ajax, at that point, had to score their next spot kick to keep them in the game but PPG goalkeeper, Kwanele Gongxeka, had other ideas, saving Bonga Dladla’s penalty. And, to make matters more difficult for them, Samkelo Mkiva scored PPG’s third goal. A save by Gongxeka against Ajax’s next spot kick would take PPG to the quarters, and he did exactly that, denying Ajax golden boy, Sonwabile Mfecane the opportunity to take his side to the quarter-finals against last year’s champions, Supersport United, and kicking Ajax out of the championship stages of the competition.
Ncaca said he was aware that his side could match Ajax on a man-to-man basis, which resulted in them focusing on teamwork.
“All we had to do was to stick to the game plan and work for each other. We also didn’t want to sit back and defend, as that would have been suicidal. So, we attacked as a team and used our speedy wingers to run at them. That worked as Ajax got frustrated,” said Ncaca