picture: lonwabo marele
The Parow-based outfit went to this year’s tournament with one aim: to reclaim the tournament they last won in 2014. In fact, the side were back to back winners in 2013 and 2014.
From then on it looked like their dominance of the junior football scene was threatened, as Supersport United rose to win the 2016 and 2017 editions.
The Pretoria side came to this year’s competition as defending champions, because last year’s event was cancelled. This was because of the drought that hit Cape Town.
Ajax was expected to do well in this year’s competition, as they had a number of exciting youngsters in their ranks.
They found themselves in Group B, alongside Mamelodi Sundowns, Silver Spurs and Black Bird Academy.
And, they didn’t really have a start they would want, as they went down 1-0 against Sundowns in the opener. But, to their credit, the 2014 champions bounced back strongly.
They beat Black Bird 5-0 in their second match, thanks to goals by Zaakir Allie, Ashley Cupido, Dylan Ruiters, Asanele Velebayi and Cole Schoeman.
That was followed by a 3-0 win against a determined Spurs side. South African junior international defender Bongolwethu Siyasi, Allie and Cupido found the back of the net in that game
Those two victories were enough to see the young Urban Warriors, through to the last 16. They came up against an uncompromising D&G Orient, who have also been playing good football.
The Manenberg side pushed Ajax hard but, in the end, a strike by Tlotlego Pitso was enough to hand Ajax a 1-0 win and a place in the quarter-final.
Coach Duncan Crowie’s charges found themselves having a quarter-final date with another Gauteng side, Highlands Park.
The match was in many ways a clash of giants, as the sides had a serious go at each other.
It was not really surprising, then, that the match became a five-goal thriller.
It was, however, the Johannesburg outfit that emerged 3-2 winners. They went through to the semis and Ajax were out of the championship stages of the competition.
As a consolation of sorts, Ajax had to do battle in the mid-section semi-finals, where they came up against Virginia Academy. That match was as tough as they come and the sides were evenly-matched in all departments.
The final score was 1-1 and the dreaded penalty shootout had to decide the winner. Ajax ended up winning 4-3 to set up a final date with Bloemfontein Celtic.
They went on to beat the Free State side 1-0 in that final.
Considering the standards they have set themselves over the years, the Ajax side would be forgiven for feeling that they hadn’t done enough.
Having said that, however, there were many positives that came out of their performance in this year’s competition. They were, for instance, able to score 13 goals and conceded only five in seven matches.
This year’s competition, in its 30 year, saw 32 teams from across South Africa, and beyond, battling it out over six days.
The 2016 and 2017 champions Supersport United looked as organised as ever.
It was clear from the outset that the Tshwane side came here to defend their title. They fought their way to the semi-final, before losing to Tshwane rivals, Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0.
That was the end of their run in this year’s tournament, and Sundowns booked their spot in the final, against Highlands Park who beat another Tshwane side, University of Pretoria, in their semi-final.
Meanwhile, Silver Spurs, Greenwood and D&G Orient may have been knocked out of this year’s tournament, but their supporters have a lot to be proud.
For the first time in the history of the club, Silver Spurs made their debut in the Bayhill Cup, and they did not disappoint.
They reached the plate section final but lost 1-0 against the experienced PPG Langa, who have played in the plate section for the past three tournaments (excluding last year).
Manenberg based D&G Orient managed to reach the last 16 while Greenwood Athletic brought together a squad of unshaken and talented youngsters with a heart that donned the green and yellow with pride.
Silver Spurs shocked many of the big names to make their way to the plate section final.
In the championship final, which was a battle of Gauteng sides, Highlands Park were crowned champions after beating Mamelodi Sundowns 4-2 on penalties. The sides were tied at 1-all after regulation time.