Benni McCarthy tasted his first defeat as a head coach as Cape Town City went down 2-0 to Kaizer Chiefs at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night, but the Capetonians can certainly emerge from the defeat with their heads held high.
In essence, they played most of the football, but Chiefs provided the better, more clinical finishing – and in football, it’s the goals that count.
For Chiefs, it was their first win of the season in front of a 25 000-strong crowd, and some breathing space for under-fire head coach Steve Komphela.
The victory was all that mattered, and the Soweto team’s triumph was based on sound defence and resolute commitment from each and every player.
City dominated the second half, launching attack after attack, but they couldn’t find a way through.
In short, they were often let down by the final pass, as well as excellent displays from Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and the central defensive pairing of Lorenzo Gordinho and Daniel Cardoso.
Both teams rang the changes, with City’s being primarily a case of rotation and Chiefs hit by injury and suspension.
For the Capetonians, there were as much as six new starters from the team that beat Wits in the MTN8 at the weekend.
It was clear evidence of McCarthy’s faith in his entire squad, in that he trusted whoever he picked to do the job for the team.
In came goalkeeper Sage Stephens, who was making his debut for City, as well as Vincent Kobola, Tshepo Gumede, Edmilson, Lyle Lakay and Mpho Matsi.
For Komphela, it was a case of reshuffling the defence after this week’s news that regulars Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Tsepo Masilela would be out injured for quite some time, while defender Erick Mathoho was suspended after being red-carded in the Soweto side’s previous match.
Khune returned to the team after an injury-enforced absence, also coming in were former City winger Bongolethu Jayiya, Philani Zulu, Kgotso Moleko and an opportunity for 17-year-old Wiseman Meyiwa.
It was a cagey, no-risk opening to proceedings, with both teams surrendering possession rather easily.
City were dealt a blow in the 16th minute when midfield schemer Teko Modise was forced off after a recurrence of a groin injury, and the veteran was replaced by Sibusiso Masina.
Once the teams had settled, though, the game started to pick up and there was a nice flow and tempo to the action.
But there weren’t that many clear-cut opportunities in the first half, especially with both defences organised and keeping things tight.
The two best chances, though, accrued to Chiefs – first when Siphiwe Tshabalala set up Zulu, but his shot was blocked by City captain Robyn Johannes, and the rebound then drilled wide by Moleko.
And second when Jayiya cut inside to create some space and fire in a shot, but his attempt unfortunately hit the upright.
Two minutes into the second half, Chiefs went in front after some shoddy defensive work from City.
The loose ball fell to 32-year-old Tshabalala, whose experience and composure were key as he coolly slotted the ball into the net.
The setback served to galvanise the Capetonians and they piled the pressure on the Soweto side.
But with Khune in superb form, and Gordinho and Cardoso an impregnable duo, it was difficult to break Chiefs down.
Masina and Lehlohonolo Majoro had fantastic opportunities, but both were brilliantly saved by Khune.
With City throwing everything into the attack, they left themselves short at the back and they were always going to be vulnerable on the counter.
And that was how it turned out when the teenager Meyiwa netted minutes before the end to signal the end of the McCarthy and City fairytale run.