Cape Town City proved in no uncertain terms that the team is always greater than the individual when they defeated Bidvest Wits 1-0 in a MTN8 first leg semi-final at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The second leg between the two clubs is scheduled for Sunday, September 10 in Johannesburg.
Lebogang Manyama is the undoubted star player at City. Last season, he was the PSL’s Football of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year.
He was left out of the starting team on Sunday, but it had no effect on the Capetonians.
They were as organised and committed as ever, the tactical discipline was top class – and, truth be told, Manyama was hardly missed.
With all the transfer speculation around Manyama, head coach Benni McCarthy took the decision to omit the player from the starting team.
With the transfer window closing soon, it looks likely that City’s star man will be on the move, either locally to Mamelodi Sundowns or overseas to Konyaspor in Turkey.
In contrast, while City were preparing for the imminent loss of top schemer Manyama, Wits handed a debut to their new star signing, Egyptian striker Amr Gamal.
While he showed some nice touches, he was taken care of by the excellent City defence.
The opening 45 minutes was typical of two-leg games, in that neither team were prepared to risk. It was a tight, compact encounter, with very few scoring opportunities.
For City, Sibusiso Masina and Lehlohonolo Majoro had half-chances, while Wits had an inviting chance, but the Cape side’s goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters pulled off a good save to deny Thabang Monare.
With both teams banking on punishing an error from the opposition, it was Wits who blinked first in the 43rd minute.
A long throw from Lyle Lakay unsettled the Wits defence, Masina won the header and flicked on for Ayanda Patosi to pounce with a snap finish to give the Capetonians the lead.
In the absence of Manyama, McCarthy handed the responsibility of the free attacking role to Patosi – and the Khayelitsha player didn’t disappoint.
Having returned home this year, after spending six years at Lokeren in Belgium, the 24-year-old is determined to get his career back on track in the Mother City.
Last week, in a 3-1 league win over Platinum Stars, Patosi netted a brilliant individual goal, and on Sunday, he served notice of his poacher’s instinct in the penalty area.
In search of some inspiration and creativity, Wits brought on former Ajax Amsterdam and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar at the start of the second half.
And, with the Clever Boys having no choice but to open up in order to find an equaliser, it led to a better, more interesting second period.
It also turned into a feisty affair, with some crunching tackles on both sides.
With Manyama not playing, the captain’s armband was worn by in-form central defender Robyn Johannes, and he led from the front as City’s superb shape and structure ensured they were always difficult to break down.
Towards the end, the Cape side could have increased their lead, but failed to capitalise on their opportunities.
The secret to City’s success since their formation as a PSL club last year has been the fantastic team unity and the unselfish graft of every member of the squad in making a contribution to the whole.
This was again quite evident in Sunday’s win – and the philosophy has now been continued by McCarthy, who describes it as “team work that makes dream work”.
For McCarthy, in his first stint as a head coach, the good run continues. It’s now four wins on the trot for City and the former Bafana Bafana striker.