CAPE TOWN – Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy will be keeping a close eye on the progress in the treatment room ahead of Sunday’s MTN8 quarter-final against Maritzburg United in KwaZulu-Natal (3pm kickoff).
He was unhappy with the performance against Baroka FC on Wednesday - and the club’s medical staff have an important role to play if McCarthy is to send out the team he has in mind to face Maritzburg.
In losing 2-1 to Baroka in Polokwane in midweek, City had to do without both left-backs, Edmilson Dove, and Ebrahim Seedat, central defender Kwanda Mngonyama and midfielder Teko Modise, all injured, and the coach will be hoping to have the players fit for Sunday.
After everything went right for City in their opening game of the 2018-19 PSL season at the weekend, everything went wrong in the second fixture on Wednesday. Such are the vagaries of football: it’s a sport that cannot be taken for granted. A team has to have the correct mental attitude and put in the effort if it wants to emerge victorious.
City looked smooth and confident in defeating SuperSport United last Saturday - but then in falling victim to the Baroka bogey again, the Cape side was disjointed and disappointing. Now, with both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde having made an appearance in City’s two opening fixtures, McCarthy is determined to see his team back to their best on Sunday.
Baroka, though, would probably love to play City every week; they just don’t lose to the Cape side. The Polokwane side certainly has the wood over McCarthy’s team, and it was no different on Wednesday.
In reflecting on the 2-1 defeat to Baroka, McCarthy will be focusing on a number of areas: they conceded two goals from set-pieces, they lost the ball far too easily, and they regularly crumbled in the face of the relentless and speedy pressing game employed by Bakgaga.
McCarthy was disconsolate afterwards, a sign that his early season confidence was perhaps a bit misplaced - he clearly still has a lot to do to get this team performing with greater consistency. In fact, on Wednesday, with the injuries, he had a major reshuffle on his hands. With no left-back available, he moved new Ivorian central defender Kouassi Kouadja to the left side of defence, shifted captain Thami Mkhize from right-back to centre-back and brought in 20-year-old defender Keanu Cupido for his PSL debut.
The raft of changes necessitated an adjustment, and it was during this period that Baroka took full advantage. McCarthy then had to make a further switch, in that the presence of Mkhize down the right was missed, and the skipper was shifted back to his usual role with Cupido going to the centre of defence.
“Sometimes nothing goes for you,” said McCarthy. “We started slowly - and I was disappointed that the two goals we conceded were both from set-pieces. Last season that was one of our strengths, now it’s a weakness. I think the guys were perhaps still enjoying the good performance we had in the previous game against SuperSport. On the day, though, we were just not good enough.”
City made it to the final of the MTN8 last season - losing to SuperSport - so McCarthy would dearly love to give himself another shot at a trophy. In Maritzburg, however, the Capetonians are up against formidable opponents and McCarthy is fully aware that his team will have to be at their best if they are to progress in the competition.
One thing’s certain, they cannot play any worse than they did against Baroka in midweek. McCarthy, in any case, will definitely be demanding an improved performance from his players.
The MTN8 quarter-finals are:
Tomorrow: Sundowns v Arrows; Chiefs v Free State Stars; Pirates v SuperSport
Sunday: Maritzburg v Cape Town City (Harry Gwala Stadium, 3pm)