Mamelodi Sundowns beat Ajax Cape Town 4-3 on penalties to clinch the Nedbank Cup in an enthralling contest at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday. The score was 0-0 after 120 minutes and it took a penalty shootout to decide the destination of the cup. Franklyn Cale missed from the spot in sudden death and Bongani Zungu scored the winning penalty for Sundowns.
The Urban Warriors started off well and almost scored the opening goal in the 6th minute after Tashreeq Morris played in Nathan Paulse but the striker put his shot narrowly wide. Both teams were attacking early on but failed to trouble the goalkeepers. Sundowns almost took the lead when Teko Modise found Zungu with an excellent free-kick but the midfielder headed the ball inches wide, with the Ajax keeper beaten. The game had a good start with both teams looking to play football and score goals. Sundowns won a set-piece in a dangerous position in the 28th minute but Hlompho Kekana’s free-kick deflected over the bar. In the 38th minute Katlego Mashego almost went clean through on goal but was denied by a well-timed Nazeer Allie tackle. With half-time looming, Morris beat the Sundowns right back and played the ball in the box to Paulse but the striker failed to hit the target despite having plenty of space and time to finish. Sundowns would have a penalty appeal turned down but the teams would go into the break with the score 0-0.
Ajax made a good start to the 2nd half and Riyaad Norodien’s shot in the 48th minute nearly trickled past Sundowns keeper Dennis Onyango. In the 51st minute, Sundowns launched a counter attack which led to a chance for Khama Billiat. The Zimbabwean was denied by a good save from Ajax keeper Anssi Jaakkola and Mashego fired the rebound into the side netting. In the 58th minute, Franklyn Cale nearly beat Onyango with a miss hit cross. Cuthbert Malajila came on as substitute and Sundowns looked more threatening upfront. Morris was replaced by Thabiso Nkoana in the 70th minute after picking up an injury. In the 80th minute substitute Anthony Laffor put in a great cross for Billiat but the Zimbabwean’s header was off target. In the 89th minute good link up play by Billiat and Malajila led to the former Ajax player getting a shot away but it was timeously blocked by Abubaker Mobara. Billiat was again in the thick of things in the 90th minute, when he started a counter attack and played in Mzikayise Mashaba but after rounding the keeper the ball evaded the Sundowns winger. Both teams kept pressing for the winning goal until the last minute but after an exhilarating 90 minutes of football, the game would end 0-0 and go to extra-time.
Both teams started extra time more cautiously but it would be Sundowns that would dominate both halves. The Ajax players seemed to tire and retreated into defence mode as Sundowns launched wave after wave of attacks on the Ajax goal. Despite both teams trying to find the elusive goal, the game would end 0-0 and the winner would be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Nkoana missed his penalty but Kekana would cancel that miss out by blasting his penalty over the bar. Malajila would then have his penalty saved by Jaakkola but Mobara missed the chance to win it for Ajax when his penalty hit the cross bar. In sudden death, Cale blasted his penalty over the bar and Zungu coolly slotted home the winning penalty. Sundowns won 4-3 on penalties and were crowned champions of the Nedbank Cup in their captain Alje Schut’s last game.