CAPE TOWN – Just a few weeks into the new season and nothing has changed: PSL coaches are singing the same old tune.
At the weekend, Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy, his Golden Arrows counterpart Clinton Larsen, Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic and Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas all lamented their teams’ woeful finishing. It’s certainly a big, big problem.
“Our problem is finishing, we need to find the formula,” said Sredojevic.
Solinas quipped: “We create a lot of chances, everything is perfect, only we need to put the ball into the back of the net.”
And, for McCarthy, it was a case of: “We keep the ball well, we move it around nicely, but fail to score. I’m disappointed with our lack of composure.”
Week in and week out, season after season, it’s the same old story: players squandering easy opportunities in front of goal. Whether it’s the PSL or Bafana Bafana, the inability to convert chances into goals has, over the years, remained a major stumbling block to progress.
In the PSL, last season’s leading scorers - Percy Tau and Rodney Ramagalela - could only manage a paltry 11 goals each for the entire campaign; the previous season it was 13 (Lebogang Manyama); and in the seasons before that: 14 (Collins Mbesuma), 14 (Moeketsi Sekola) and 10 (Bernard Parker). To be brutally honest, for a country so passionate and even arrogant about its football, that is simply not good enough.
But McCarthy saw the lighter side of it all. “Arrows could have snatched the game at the end when they had a sitter in front of goal, but (Danny) Venter missed,” said McCarthy. “I have to remind myself to go and thank him for missing that goal.”
With City’s scoring issues continuing to be a factor, McCarthy knows he has some hard work at training this week as the Cape side prepares for an MTN8 first leg semi-final against Mamelodi Sundowns at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
“We will go back and work on what needs to be worked on: scoring goals,” said the City coach. “We are missing easy chances. Against Arrows, you will see that we didn’t even make the goalkeeper make a save, that’s how bad our finishing was. So training this week will be about our attacking and forward play. It’s an area we have to improve - we are missing the calmness and composure in front of goal.”
McCarthy also admitted that the loss of Siphelele Mthembu, due to injury, was a blow to the team at the weekend - and he was hoping to have his muscular striker back fit for the Sundowns encounter. The coach has already described “Shaka Zulu” as his “main man”; Mthembu’s strength on the ball and his availability in the penalty area are what McCarthy likes.
“If Shaka (Mthembu) was fit, then it could have been a completely different outcome,” added McCarthy. “He was injured in the Maritzburg game and didn’t recover in time, so we didn’t want to make him play through the injury.”
Against Arrows, Matthew Rusike played as City’s striker, but his positional play wasn’t always of the best. As McCarthy explained: “Matthew did well, except that he didn’t get into the areas where he was needed. The way we have been working with the strikers is for them to be in the big box, and be involved where the ball is.
We don’t want them to drift out wide. And you saw that was our problem - we got some great balls into the box, but there was no striker at the end of it. So Matthew is finding himself at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Nevertheless, City’s two-legged clash with Sundowns should be a real mouth-watering occasion and it’s shaping up as a fixture not to be missed.
MTN8 semi-final, first leg fixtures
Saturday: Cape Town City v Mamelodi Sundowns (Cape Town Stadium, 3pm)
Sunday: SuperSport United v Kaizer Chiefs