Craig Martin sealed a 1-0 win for Cape Town City ahead of the start if the PSL season. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs 0

Cape Town City (0)1

Martin 61

The people of Mbombela were treated to a titanic duel worthy of an Absa Premiership match a week before the 2018/19 season started, which was quite fitting since they won’t see much of that campaign in these parts.

Cape Town City, who bought Mpumalanga Black Aces and relocated them to the Mother City, returned to their former home and won the Mpumalanga Cultural Xperience at the expense of Kaizer Chiefs.

The Cape side worked hard for this victory in a physical and intense match, traits you wouldn’t normally see in a pre-season friendly but they were there since this encounter comes a week before both teams start the season with tough matches. Chiefs will visit the reigning league champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, on Saturday and later that day the Citizens will host SuperSport United.

The Citizens had more to be cheerful for than just winning the trophy. They looked exciting and were able to switch up the tempo while Amakhosi looked like they didn’t have much of a plan. The physical nature of this contest infuriated both benches with some crunching tackles. The Citizens countered Chiefs’ speed with force. Kwanda Mngonyama was the main instigator of that force and Khama Billiat the recipient. But Riyaad Norodien also received some rough treatment from Chiefs’ leftback Letlhogonolo Mirwa. Billiat eventually limped off the field just before the hour mark due to a tackle from Taariq Fielies.

Patrick Mabedi continued to lead Amakhosi in the caretaker role he has held since April following Steve Komphela’s resignation. Giovanni Solinas was in the stands with his work permit yet to be sorted. 

Even though Solinas is yet to officially take charge of Amakhosi in a competitive match what these pre-season tournaments have shown – from the Maize Cup to the Shell Helix Ultra Cup and the Mpumalanga Cultural Xperience Cup – is that he will deploy a 4-4-2 formation and not the 3-4-3 that Steve Komphela used during his time.

While Chiefs players were eager to impress the new coach, the Citizens’ players were fighting to cement their place in the starting XI with a couple of places up for grabs. New goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburg started in goal but wasn’t tested much in the first half. The Dutch goalkeeper watched Amakhosi attack with speed but lack the killer pass in the box to threaten the Cape side. But when he was tested, in the dying minutes of the game, he produced a brilliant save to deny Amakhosi a goal and secured the win for his team.

Billiat and Leonardo Castro still have good chemistry but their combination is still not at the level it was when they terrorised defenders as part of the deadly trio that also featured Keagan Dolly who is now in France. Mabedi kept a tried-and-tested formula for most of the match while Benni McCarthy experimented with his line-up.

McCarthy made five changes at the start of the second half which included the introduction of Siphelele Mthembu and Gift Links – changing the formation from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2. The Citizens pressed harder after that. City eventually breached Chiefs’ defence through that pressure. Teko Modise’s set-piece that fell into a congested box was pummelled by Craig Martin to beat Virgil Vries. The Citizens played with more confidence and energy after that goal. They were the better team, exposing cracks that Chiefs must patch before facing Sundowns.

The intensity that was on display here, the hunger to win and physical nature prepared these teams well for the season ahead.


IOL Sport

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