CAPE TOWN - Benni McCarthy knows exactly how he wants to approach Cape Town City’s final PSL fixture of 2017 when his team takes on log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday (kick-off 7.30pm).
With Sundowns in imperious form at the moment - six wins and a draw in their last seven games - they’re setting a brutal pace at the top of the PSL standings. Because of this, McCarthy is not about to just sit back and hope for the best.
“It’s a good challenge against Sundowns,” said the former Bafana Bafana striker after City’s 1-0 win over AmaZulu at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday. “When you play against teams like Chiefs, Pirates or Sundowns, then the players don’t need any motivation.
"It’s our last game before the Christmas break and we are not going to be cautious. We are not going to allow Sundowns to control things and kill us off as they have done to other teams in recent weeks.
“We have to try to go toe-to-toe with them. We have to go for playing football and try not to hold back. If you sit back as a team, you play into Sundowns’ game - you have to do the unexpected and that’s what we will try to do. Most importantly, though, if we want to come away with the three points, then we have to make sure that we take our opportunities.”
As is currently stands, Sundowns are out in front on 28 points, followed by Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars on 22, City on 21 and Orlando Pirates on 20 points. Looking at Tuesday's clash, you can be sure that even the rest of the PSL will be fully behind City, hoping they can derail Sundowns. Because, as it seems right now, if the champion Pretoria club aren’t stopped in its tracks, and quickly too, the title race could be over pretty soon.
City come off a confidence-boosting victory over AmaZulu - but, again, as has been the case over the last few weeks, despite playing some good football and creating lots of scoring chances, they are just not killing off the opposition. They should have put the game to bed by half-time, but their inability to make full use of their opportunities allowed AmaZulu back in the game - and, in the end, they needed a late goal from Roland Putsche to snatch all three points.
McCarthy has made no secret of the fact that he’s far from happy, especially with the team’s finishing.
“There were a few players who didn’t pitch up and that always makes things difficult,” said the City coach. “We were a bit lucky against AmaZulu at times, but I’ll take it because there have been so many other games in which we were unlucky. There wasn’t a lot of urgency, and perhaps all the travelling was starting to take its toll on the team.
"We’ve been up and down to Durban and Nelspruit in the last two weeks, and the travel can sometimes take it out of the players. So I will assess things at training and see how it looks. Selection will be key because I want to put out a hardworking team to try to match Sundowns’ flair players.”
Meanwhile, Ajax Cape Town lost 1-0 to Kaizer Chiefs at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night. The Cape side was very unfortunate in succumbing to a late goal from Amakhosi’s Dumisani Zuma. On the whole, Ajax are looking a lot better than they did earlier on in the season - and there is certainly enough to work on when the campaign resumes next year.
“I thought we were okay, we were tight (against Chiefs),” said Ajax coach Stanley Menzo. “There were moments where we did well, especially in the first half. But I don’t think Chiefs had big chances.
"You have to keep your organisation, keep the discipline and keep defending on the ball, you have to relax and wait for your moment. We won the ball in midfield a few times and then hit from behind, but it was not enough. In the second half, though, we didn’t play.”
While Menzo is happy with his squad, he admits that, with the transfer window opening in January, he needs to bring in a player or two.
“There is enough quality in the squad, but we need players who can help with keeping the ball more in the team. We need players who can keep the organisation.”