Santos dent Ajax's title hopes

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The fixture drew more fans than Athlone Stadium is accustomed to in recent seasons, with the crowd braving the cold in the hope of witnessing an entertaining match of football between the second and third placed teams on the log, and they did not disappoint.

Ajax hit their stride early on with Nathan Paulse heading over in the third minute from a Franklyn Cale corner.

Craig Rosslee’s side took a deserved lead in the 10th minute when Dipsy Selolwane headed home from inside the area following a good cross by Makhanyiseli Siwahla.

Referee Thabo Nkosi tried to stamp his authority on the game, and in doing so brandished four yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes and a total of six yellow cards in the first half alone.

But as the game wore on, The People’s Team started imposing themselves, with Erwin Isaacs and Eleazar Rodgers prominent in most of their attacks.

It came as no surprise when Santos drew level in the 33rd minute following a superb build-up which culminated in Isaacs setting up Rodgers to score with a low shot inside the area.

The score remained 1-1 at the break, and Ajax Cape Town started the second period in much the same way they did the first, with midfielder Clifford Ngobeni testing Santos goalkeeper Wayne Roberts with a superb long range shot, but Roberts produced a good save to palm the ball away for a corner.

Ajax had a goal disallowed in the 57th minute when Nathan Paulse headed home from a Franklyn Cale’s free-kick, but the referee disallowed it for an infringement inside the area, although it did appear as if Paulse’s shirt was being pulled by a Santos defender.

Ajax won a host of free-kicks around the Santos area, but could not capitalise as the game swung from end to end at breakneck pace.

Otieno should have handed the People’s Team the lead in the 74th minute when he headed just wide of goal from substitute Thando Mngomeni’s free-kick.

Romano Scott wasted a glorious chance to hand Santos the lead when he was played clear by Wayne Arendse, but the winger’s final touch was poor and Hans Vonk made a good save.

Santos continued to pile on the pressure and Gabonamong shot high and wide in the 76th minute following good work by Isaacs.

Santos were denied a penalty in the 85th minute when Scott was fouled inside the area by Nhlanhla Shabalala.

Shabalala should have wrapped up the game for Ajax two minutes from the end when he surged into the Santos area, but his fierce shot was brilliantly saved by Roberts, and with that went the final chance of the game.

For Ajax to win the league now they will have to beat Golden Arrows at the King Zwelithini Stadium on Sunday, and hope that Supersport United go down to Bloemfontein Celtic at Seisa Ramabodu, which will see the Ikamva-based side go level on 54 points with leaders Matsatsantsa, but it will also secure the Urban Warriors their first ever league title as they have a superior goal difference to Gavin Hunt’s side.