CAPE TOWN – It was always going to happen – it’s just the nature of football.
After three successive defeats, Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy, the kid with the Midas touch, faces his first real challenge in his fledgling career as a coach.
McCarthy, of course, regularly bounced back from setbacks during his stellar career as a player. When he took over as City coach, he got to work quickly and the Cape side was off to a flying start.
Now, though, after losing in the MTN8 final last weekend and then two subsequent PSL defeats to Bloemfontein Celtic and Chippa United, everybody is holding their breath in anticipation. Just how does McCarthy respond?
The 39-year-old former Bafana Bafana striker is still new to the coaching game – but what he does next, and how his team reacts to what he does, will be a good measure of the type of coach McCarthy will eventually turn out to be. Let’s see.
City take on current PSL log leaders Baroka FC in the opening round of the Telkom Knockout Cup at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday – and, make no mistake, McCarthy has a major job on his hands at training this week.
City are the defending champions of this competition and will, no doubt, want to get off to a positive start. But, based on what they’ve shown in the last two league defeats, it’s not looking very good.
Reflecting on Sunday’s 2-1 away loss to Chippa United, McCarthy cut a disconsolate figure after the game.
Despite being in control in the opening stages, and taking a 1-0 lead, City fell apart and the opposition came storming back to take the three points.
“I’ve always said that there are no easy games in this league,” said McCarthy. “We dominated the first half, but it looked like we got stuck in the dressing-room in the second half. The guys didn’t want to play anymore, I can’t even explain what went wrong. We just went to sleep at the back. So it’s another loss and that’s really hard to take.”
McCarthy was spot-on in his assessment of the team’s second-half performance. Their good work in the opening half hour against Chippa was based on a high-pressure game, in which they allowed the opponents very little space.
But once they’d scored, they backed off and that allowed Chippa to get more fluency and rhythm to their short-passing game.
So, in truth, the Capetonians have only themselves to blame. The game plan is everything in football – City strayed from their strengths and they paid the price.
"We can't just hold possession and dominate games. We've got to learn to finish teams off when they're on the ropes!" pic.twitter.com/BvHOQkXV55
As for Baroka this weekend, McCarthy is fully aware that he is up against a good, improving team. But he is just as mindful of that, as coach, he needs to get to the root of the team’s current malaise.
“Baroka are similar to Chippa in the way they play,” said the City coach.
“They are very good on the ball, they are high-flying at the moment and they can score goals. Rest assured, if we play the way we played in the second half against Chippa, then we could be in for a hiding on Sunday.
“For me, I know that I now have to tackle this problem that we have of not coming out for the second half. I didn’t even know it was there, but I will have to try to sort it out.”