CAPE TOWN – City assistant coach Vasili Manousakis has an opportunity to test his coaching credentials in tonight’s first round, first leg Caf Confederation Cup tie against Costa do Sol in Mozambique (7pm kick-off).
For the fixture, Manousakis will have been instructed on the basic game plan by his boss, head coach Benni McCarthy, but he will also view the fixture as a chance to gauge his own reading of the game and tactical response to situations. When McCarthy was suspended earlier in the season, he was still there to relay instructions to the bench from the stands. This time, the head coach is not around and Manousakis will have to carry the can for the decisions he makes; there is no better challenge for a budding coach.
The assistant coach, though, is getting rather accustomed to stepping into the shoes of McCarthy, which is why he’s quite relaxed and quietly confident ahead of tonight’s game. When McCarthy was red-carded, Manousakis called the shots from the bench for a few games while the former Bafana Bafana striker spent some time watching from the stands.
Now, with McCarthy in Manchester for the next instalment of his Uefa Pro Licence programme, Manousakis is ready to step into the breach again.
City have used the Caf event as an opportunity to rotate their squad, to give the rest of the players some game time. Having defeated Swaziland’s Young Buffaloes in the previous round, the Mozambicans are expected to present a far sterner challenge. Nevertheless, as Manousakis insists, he will again look to the younger members of the squad to do the business. It’s a chance for teenagers like Shane Roberts and Zukile Kuweti to continue to grow their experience.
The Cape side left a few players at home, including Teko Modise, Roland Putsche and Thami Mkhize. The trio played an influential role in the Cape side’s 2-0 win over Chippa United last Friday and have been told to put their feet up and prepare for next week’s Nedbank Cup clash against Orlando Pirates. Also not in Mozambique are Masoud Juma, Alan Kateregga, Mpho Matsi and Matthew Rusike, who are all still on the injured list.
“The boys are looking forward to the game,” said Manousakis. “We had a really fun session on the beach on Tuesday evening. We know we’re up against tough opponents who want to impress at home, so it’s important that we are organised in defence.
“The target is to keep a clean sheet and try to get an away goal or two. We had two tough league fixtures last week and, as a result, we have a few niggles and had to leave a few key players behind. That said, it’s time for the youngsters to stand up and be counted, alongside experienced players like (Vincent) Kobola, (Sibusiso) Masina, (Ayanda) Patosi and (Robyn) Johannes.”
Manousakis is keen on getting the balance right for the clash against Costa do Sol. The energy and enthusiasm of youth has to be complemented with the experience and cool heads of the team’s experienced campaigners.