CAPE TOWN – Benni McCarthy is determined to win his first major prize as a coach but to have a shot at it, Cape Town City have to get past Mamelodi Sundowns in the semi-finals of the MTN8. The first leg will be played at the Cape Town Stadium tomorrow (3pm).
Decorated as a player, City’s McCarthy is keen to make a success of coaching too. Last season he narrowly missed out when City lost to SuperSport United in the final. He did admit, however, that City would have to be at their best to beat Sundowns.
“It’s a difficult one,” he said. “Sundowns have a massive squad - they can pick two or three different squads at any time and still be competitive. I’m not even preparing for the players they sent out on Wednesday (0-0 PSL draw with Highlands Park); they will come with fresher legs. So we won’t prepare for any of their personnel because we know that they always play the same system and come with the same tactical approach.
“They love to play attacking football, they love to control the tempo, and dictate the pace of the game. If we can keep them at bay and frustrate them, then we will have a chance.
“The idea is to try to put the game to bed in the first leg. If not, then we have to make sure we give ourselves a good shot at it in the second leg; we have to make sure we don’t concede. We’ve done well in this competition in the past and I want to go all the way to the final again.”
Hartleyvale was abuzz yesterday with City hard at work in preparation and everything at training centred around just one aspect: scoring goals. McCarthy has been vocal about his team’s frailties in front of goal. While the football they play is eye-catching, the finishing leaves a lot to be desired.
The former Bafana Bafana striker is demanding an improvement in this regard against Sundowns, which is why inside every square grid set up for training yesterday, including the use of three goalposts, it was shooting, finishing and scoring.
“It has been frustrating,” said McCarthy. “We play good football but we cannot score. It’s not that we don’t work on it: as you can see, my training is scoring based and movement based. But the difference is simple: at training there is no pressure, so the players can finish just fine, but in the game there is pressure and then they don’t show the composure and the maturity, they are too rushed, and the chance is wasted.
“I still think, though, that it just needs one to hit the back of the net and the others will start to go in. Hopefully, on Saturday, our scoring woes can come to an end.”
City have always come unstuck against Sundowns because of the brilliance of Percy Tau and Khama Billiat, but both have moved on. So does McCarthy believe he has a better chance against Sundowns? Not at all. In fact, he believes Downs have a player who is better than both Tau and Billiat: new signing Toni Silva.
“Without Tau and Billiat, it may have a psychological impact on Sundowns, but they still have such a lot of quality in their squad,” said McCarthy. “The players they have brought into the club have European experience.”