CAPE TOWN – After a tame goalless draw with Golden Arrows at the weekend, Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy was bitterly disappointed with his team’s finishing. Despite dominating possession and creating a number of chances, they were unable to kill off the opposition.
As such, the City coach is demanding an improvement with regards to his team’s attacking play when they take on Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg of the MTN8 semi-finals at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (3pm kickoff). Working on this will be his top priority at training this week - and he is hatching a plan in which the speed and energy of Craig Martin will be crucial.
Martin is certainly among the quickest footballers in the PSL. He is always extremely dangerous when allowed freedom and space on the ball. The 24-year-old winger is a nightmare for defenders as his searing pace is able to create opportunities for teammates or, as has already been seen this season, he’s quite adept in front of goal too.
Martin scored the winner in City’s 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs in a pre-season friendly in Mpumalanga and was also on the scoresheet on the opening day of the new league season when the Capetonians defeated SuperSport United 2-0.
As City prepare for Sundowns, Martin has no doubt his coach will find a solution to the team’s scoring woes.
“Sundowns will be a really tough game,” said Martin. “But it’s also the type of fixture that will produce end-to-end football and it will be very tactical too. We will prepare well this week. We have an idea of what Sundowns’ strengths are. They like to congest the middle and have their wing-backs push up. We will be ready for this.”
In fact, it is because of this that the pace of Martin becomes important for City. When Sundowns’ flank defenders bomb forward to create width in support of their attackers, there will be space in behind them when the ball breaks down - and that is when City, with Martin’s speed and Riyaad Norodien’s trickery, will be looking to take advantage of Sundowns.
Last week, the champion Pretoria club lost 1-0 to Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in the Caf Champions League, which is why they will be desperate to bounce back against City on Saturday.
“I’m sure Sundowns will come with a strong team against us,” said Martin. “They will be disappointed after the Caf loss and will be determined to get back on track.”
As for City, Martin acknowledged the team’s frailties in front of goal, but was confident that it was only a matter of time before things changed for the better.
“We are short of goals at the moment,” he said. “We are lacking goal-scorers, but we are working on it. The important thing is that we are playing good football - and, when we come up against Sundowns on Saturday, I am confident that we will stick one or two into the net.”
Confident words from Martin, but then, again, confidence is something the energetic winger is not short of. Last season he was plucked from the obscurity of amateur football, thrown into the deep end of the PSL, and took to it like a duck to water. In a short space of time, he has made a huge impact - and McCarthy will be keen on Martin delivering a match-winning performance on Saturday.
The MTN8 semi-final, first leg fixtures are:
Saturday: Cape Town City v Mamelodi Sundowns (Cape Town Stadium, 3pm)