CAPE TOWN - The curse of the cup final appearance continued to haunt Cape Town City as they lost 2-0 to Bidvest Wits in a PSL fixture at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Cape side has qualified for three cup finals in its three seasons as a PSL club – for two wins and one defeat – but, on every occasion, in the league game after the final, they’ve lost. It’s a scenario that was uppermost in head coach Benni McCarthy’s thoughts ahead of the clash against Wits, but, unfortunately, his team couldn’t avoid falling prey to it again. It wasn’t for want of trying, though – they certainly gave a good account of themselves, especially in a dominant second half performance – but the damage had already been done in the first half.
After the physical exertion of the weekend’s MTN8 final, together with the mental pressure of a penalty shoot-out, McCarthy rang the changes. Of the cup final starters, only three players – goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh, central defender Kwanda Mngonyama and winger Craig Martin – made the team, with McCarthy drafting in eight new players to face Wits.
As such, as expected, the Citizens struggled for rhythm and fluency early on, and the Clever Boys took full advantage. They were all over City in the opening period, with Gift Motupa and Sifiso Hlanti going close. It was, therefore, no surprise when Wits took the lead in the seventh minute – Leeuwenburgh was adjudged to have fouled striker Simon Murray, and it was the same Murray who stepped up to convert the spot-kick.
Gradually, though, as the first half progressed, City started to find their feet. Despite the raft of changes, the philosophy remained the same; they were comfortable in possession, always looking to pass rather than hoof the ball away. There were some promising moments, especially to striker Matthew Rusike, but on two occasions he failed to make the most of headed opportunities inside the penalty area.
City finished the first half rather strong – but, as they say in football, it’s when a team is at its strongest that it is also at its weakest. And that’s how it turned out as Wits countered after a City attack, with Deon Hotto setting up Murray, who calmly netted his second on the night to put give the Johannesburg side a 2-0 lead at the break.
Not a bad crowd for a really chilly Cape Town evening. pic.twitter.com/9mrGHeWBgy
The Citizens came out in determined mood in the second half and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Wits. But, while they played with energy and enthusiasm, they lacked the necessary creative edge in the final third to break down the resolute Wits defence. There were a few chances, but substitute Siphelele Mthembu headed high on two occasions, while left-back Ebrahim Seedat, in pushing forward, could only manage to shoot straight at Wits goalkeeper Darren Keet.
McCarthy brought on Ayanda Patosi and Gift Links in the final 20 minutes, in a bid to galvanise his team’s offensive approach, but not even that had the required effect. City continued to huff and puff without really troubling the opposition – and, in the end, for the third time in three seasons, they had to be content with losing a league game subsequent to a cup final appearance.