CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy refused to blame his club’s home venue issues for Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat to Maritzburg United at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban.
The match against Maritzburg was scheduled for Athlone Stadium - but, with no home venue available for PSL football in the entire Mother City, the Cape club shifted the fixture to Durban; in the process, giving up their valuable home advantage.
“Nah, that doesn’t count as an excuse,” said McCarthy. “Yes, it’s not normal that you have to get on a plane to travel for a home game. It’s unheard of, but we are faced with it and we have to deal with it. We chose to play at Princess Magogo, so it’s not an excuse.
“I think the players need to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions of themselves. We create chances and have the opposition on the ropes, but sometimes, I guess, playing good football doesn’t help. I think, at the moment, there is too much of that, and too little of taking our scoring opportunities.
"The biggest problem I am faced with is that we don’t score enough goals, we don’t go for the jugular. During the first half (against Maritzburg), there was only one team in it. And then, in the second half, we let the opposition in, had the wind knocked out of us, and we lose the fight and desire we had. So, really, our problem is that when we are doing well, everyone wants to be on the ball; when things get tough, too many players are going into their shells.”
But, in football, there is no doubt that playing at home is an advantage. On Tuesday, City were forced to give up this vital home edge - and, unfortunately, they succumbed to the psychological effects of what has been a difficult period.
Cape Town Stadium is unavailable because of Sevens Rugby this weekend, while Athlone is in a bad state through sheer neglect and mismanagement. And, while the City of Cape Town continues to obfuscate the issue, focusing myopically on the unavailability of the former 2010 World Cup venue rather than owning up to its responsibility in the debacle, football, again, has had to take the knocks.
It has cost City financially, with regards to travel; it benefited the opposition, in that they were just a car journey away from the ground; and, to crown it all, with all the hullabaloo and controversy no doubt affecting the players, they crashed and burned in Durban. So it cost City points too.
There is no doubt if this game was played in the Cape, things could have gone much differently. And now, instead of going top of the PSL standings, City slumped to their fifth league defeat of the season. On top of it all, it places the players and coaches under pressure. In essence, City have been betrayed by the very city in which they reside. The question again: how difficult is it to manage a football venue? There is a drought in the Cape, but it affects the entire region, not just Athlone.
Next up for City is another tricky fixture, in that they’ll be up against SuperSport United at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday (3.30pm kickoff).
“Unfortunately, right now, we are a team of two halves,” said McCarthy. “Against Maritzburg, we deserved to win the first half, but in the second half we were stuck in the dressing-room, while the opposition moved into another gear. Something has to change and it’s up to the players to step up. They know what they need to do and they have to rediscover the heart and desire.”