CAPE TOWN – Benni McCarthy was both disconsolate and livid after Cape Town City’s 2-2 draw with Free State Stars at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Wednesday.
He was disappointed at the Free State side’s overly-aggressive approach, and angry that the match officials allowed them to get away with murder. Afterwards, the City coach had to work very hard to keep his emotions in check. The Cape side had to endure some brutal tackling - and, truth be told, how the opposition finished with a full complement of players only the referee will know.
City, however, won’t have too much time to dwell on their anger and frustration because the next challenge already waits: the Cape club are in Atteridgeville for the MTN8 semi-final second leg clash with Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday (3pm kickoff). City won the first leg 1-0.
McCarthy, in fact, is now looking forward to the fixture against Sundowns because, as he suggests, the game will be of such a nature that it will restore his faith in football. The former Bafana Bafana striker was horrified by some of the cruel challenges his team faced against Stars. The physical, aggressive Free Staters got stuck in against City, illegally and over the ball on a few occasions, but were never punished by the referee.
The match was summed up by an incident during which Roland Putsche was the victim of a potentially career-ending studs-up challenge from Stars skipper Paulus Masehe; it was a clear red-card offence. Masehe survived and went on to play an influential role in proceedings, while Putsche limped off injured and is in doubt for Sunday’s crunch fixture.
“It was an away game and an away point, at a difficult ground, in a difficult game. But I have to be careful in what I say, so let’s not talk about the real issues facing South African football,” said McCarthy afterwards as he tried to rein in his emotions.
“I’m now just looking forward to the second leg against Sundowns; I know I won’t lose players to injury because of the way Sundowns play. They set out to play football, not like the things I saw today (Wednesday against Stars). The tackles, a yellow card to a player who was the victim, it’s just beyond me. At least, against Sundowns, it will be two teams going at it for the result and playing real football.”
On Wednesday against Stars, with the second leg against Sundowns in mind, McCarthy rested a few key players, and he will definitely send out his strongest possible team on Sunday. Taariq Fielies, captain Thamsanqa Mkhize, Thabo Nodada and veteran Teko Modise will, in all likelihood, return to the team as City attempt to make the MTN8 final for a second time.
The big worry, of course, is the availability of Putsche. The Austrian is vital to the City midfield and McCarthy is holding thumbs the player will recover in time to take his place against Sundowns.
“The state I saw him in at halftime of the Stars game wasn’t good,” said the City coach. “We’ll have to see how it goes. But we may have to do without him.”
The MTN8 semi-final second leg fixtures are:
Tomorrow: Chiefs v SuperSport
Sunday: Sundowns v Cape Town City (Lucas Moripe Stadium, 3pm)