CAPE TOWN – If the first match is anything to go by, the sequel of the duel between Cape Town City and Mamelodi Sundowns at Athlone Stadium tonight will produce fireworks.
The first match, played in Pretoria last week, was an entertaining contest between two of the title contenders. Since then, the Brazilians have gone and dropped two points by playing to a goalless draw with Bloemfontein Celtic while the Citizens sent a loud warning of their intentions in the league race with a come from behind 3-2 win over Bidvest Wits.
Sundowns’ 3-2 win over City might not have decided where the league will go, but it showed a lot about the two teams who are gunning for the championship.
The Citizen’s character is one of their best traits. They didn’t sit back, but actually went toe-to-toe with the Brazilians. Benni McCarthy has injected a strong fighting spirit in the team, and City are slowly developing a habit of being come-back kings.
They bounced back from trailing Wits 2-0 to win 3-2. In that clash they showed great character to dismantle the former champions in their own backyard. City were lethargic in the first half against Sundowns, but McCarthy fired them up and they returned to the second half stronger and held their own against the reigning league champions.
The Brazilians used their experience to bully City off the field. The Tshwane giants have been involved in the league race in the past five seasons - winning the league in three of those campaigns and finishing second on the other two occasions.
City on the other hand have never challenged for the title. They’re in an unfamiliar position and it shows with the tactical naivety that hurts them. McCarthy struggles to manage games which has seen them concede the most goals in the teams that are in the top eight.
Bossing the midfield
Hlompho Kekana and Andile Jali dominated Thato Mokeke and Teko Modise. Kekana and Jali’s victory set the tone for Sundowns’ win. The two put pressure on Mokeke and Modise, two talented ball players who make City tick when they have time on the ball. By taking that away from them, City were a shadow of themselves.
Mosimane is likely to deploy the same strategy, and he rested Jali in the goalless draw with Celtic. City will come at Sundowns with guns blazing, meaning that the winner of the midfield battle will dictate the game as the Capetonians rely a lot on their wing play.
Speed versus intelligence
Riyaad Norodien and Gift Links’ speed has troubled many defenders. The speedsters, however, didn’t have much joy against Sundowns. Mosimane nullified them by fielding Anele Ngcongca and Tebogo Langerman who are experienced. With Links and Norodien unable to work their magic, City didn’t create much chances.
They’ll come with a better strategy tonight in an attempt to expose Sundowns’ slow defence. In the absence of speed, the Brazilians’ defenders use their intelligence to beat fast attacks. City have to come with more ingenuity in their attack to get something out of this match.
Kermit Erasmus on the right path
The forward scored a stunning goal at Loftus Versfeld. His goal led to a nervy finish for the Brazilians who were cruising at that stage. His contribution at City will be immense once he gels into the starting team ona regular basis.
City could be the springboard he needs to relaunch his Bafana Bafana career - something McCarthy believes will happen in the near future. A good showing against Sundowns will do his confidence a world of good, especially since he comes into this match with two goals in two games.