Slick City expose flaws in Chiefs
Martin 61 .................................... 0
MBOMBELA STADIUM: THE people of Mbombela were treated to a titanic duel worthy of a PSL match a week before the 2018/19 season starts, which was quite fitting since they won’t see much of that campaign in these parts.
Cape Town City, who bought Mpumalanga Black Aces’s franchise and relocated the team, 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 came 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 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 flying in as City countered Chiefs’ speed with force.
Kwanda Mngonyama was the main instigator, with 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 following 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, but what Chiefs’ pre-season tournaments have shown 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 City’ players were fighting to cement their place in the starting XI with a couple of spots up for grabs. New goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburg started but wasn’t tested much in the first half. The Dutch goalkeeper watched Amakhosi attack with pace, but they lacked the killer passes in the box to threaten the Cape side. But when Leeuwenburg was tested, in the dying minutes of the game, he produced a brilliant save to deny Chiefs a goal.
Billiat and Leonardo Castro still have good chemistry but their combination is not at the level it was when they terrorised defenders as part of the deadly Sundowns trio which also featured Keagan Dolly.
Mabedi kept a tried-andtested formula for most of the match while City coach Benni McCarthy experimented with his line-up, making five changes for 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, and eventually breached Chiefs’ defence. Teko Modise’s set-piece fell into a congested box and it fell to Craig Martin, who beat keeper Virgil Vries.
City played with more confidence and energy after that goal, and were overall the better team, exposing cracks that Chiefs must patch. The intensity that was on display here, the hunger to win and physical nature, prepared these teams well for the season ahead.