The uneven pitch and some unnecessary aggression from Sthembiso Ngcobo cost Free State Stars maximum points on a cold winter’s night in Phuthaditjhaba.
The Charles Mopeli pitch is not fit for professional football and its bumpy, uneven surface was of no advantage to Stars, as they suffered in both attack and defence.
In offence, the numerous chances manufactured by the Stars midfield came to naught as their strikers failed to control the bouncing ball in the area.
In defence, it cost them the goal as an innocuous free-kick from Franklin Cale in the 20th minute seemed destined for the safe hands of Kennedy Mweene, until it unexpectedly took a vicious kick as it bounced in front of the keeper and into the back of the net.
It was just reward for Ajax, who dominated the opening exchanges, but they failed to take control of the game and home team began to dominate from then onwards.
Realising that his team had lost impetus, Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral made a double substitution at half time, bringing on Dipsy Selolwane and Mohammed Diallo, but the changes did little to alter the pattern of the game as Stars pushed for an equaliser.
In the 51st minute Clayton Daniels failed to clear a misplaced through-ball and Mpho Makola broke into the Ajax area and made no mistake in placing the ball past Vonk.
The momentum in their favour, Stars were let down by Ngcobo who was sent off after he elbowed Daniels in an off-the-ball incident.
Even down to 10 men, Stars still dominated and were unlucky not to take the three points as both Kingston Nkhatha and Makola wasted excellent chances.
Ertugral did not hide his displeasure at his team’s performance: “It was a disaster today. The football dished out today - I could not watch it. We had no defence today.
It is the worst performance I have ever seen. I think the players’ minds were on Sunday’s match [the MTN8 Cup semifinal against Kaizer Chiefs].”