CAPE TOWN - Many shrewd punters are suggesting that Cape Town City are the team to watch this season. They've beefed up their squad with some really promising players and Benni McCarthy, now in his second year as a head coach, is a lot more wiser and experienced.
On Saturday, on the opening day of the 2018-19 PSL season, City gave notice of their intentions with an impressive and comfortable win over SuperSport United at the Cape Town Stadium. The shrewdies could well have a point: watch out, this City side mean business.
It's early days, so it would be foolish to get too carried away, but there was certainly a lot to like about City's performance. It wasn't perfect, there are areas that need improvement, especially when they lose the ball, but there was a great deal to admire about their offensive approach.
In the build-up to Saturday's opening fixture, McCarthy spoke about the headache he had developed with regard to team selection. The depth in his squad was such that he wasn't sure who he would start. As it was, he opted to give four new signings their City debut - Dutch goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh, Ivory Coast defender Koassi Kouadja, right wing Riyaad Noordien and striker Siphelele Mthembu.
The Cape side got off to a flying start, dominating possession, and putting SuperSport under tremendous pressure early on. But, as was the case last season, McCarthy's men struggled when it came to their work in the final third, with the final ball again the major stumbling block to their efforts to get a goal.
For City, it was particularly out on the left flank where Edmilson and Surprise Ralani were troubling SuperSport. But, while the Capetonians were impressive in their build-up work, they were rather vulnerable on the counter. Often, in the first half, it appeared that City were far too comfortable on the ball because, when it broke down and they lost possession, they were regularly caught out at the back.
For SuperSport, these moments on the counter proved fruitful for Evans Rusike and, on one occasion, he had a great opportunity to put SuperSport into the lead, but Leeuwenburgh came to the rescue with a fantastic close-in save. It showed just why both McCarthy and club boss John Comitis were so keen to bring the Dutchman to the Mother City.
Just before the break, after another sweeping upfield move from City, Norodien crashed in a powerful drive, but SuperSport goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was equal to the task, pulling off a superb stop at the near post.
With play really tight early on in the second half, and SuperSport keeping shape and men behind the ball, it was always going to need something special to animate proceedings. And that something special came from Austrian action man Roland Putsche. Norodien and Ralani did excellent work in the build-up, and when the cross came in from the left, Putsche drilled in an unstoppable volley into the top corner in the 55th minute.
The technique was superb, with the Austrian demonstrating just why he has become such an important player for City - he doesn't just get through the dirty work in the engine-room, but he's just as capable of popping up to produce a moment of magic.
Ten minutes later, it was 2-0. After yet another enterprising attack in which City were able to prise open the SuperSport defence, the ball fell to substitute Craig Martin, who just needed a simple tap-in. City are off to a positive start - but, as McCarthy is well aware, the league is a marathon; now the challenge is to maintain consistency.