Ad­van­tage to City as Sun­downs’ de­fen­sive Cup tac­tics back­fire

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - ROD­NEY REINERS

CAPE TOWN CITY will take a one-goal ad­van­tage into their MTN8 semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg tie with Mamelodi Sun­downs in Pre­to­ria next week. Benni McCarthy’s side emerged vic­to­ri­ous 1-0 from the first leg en­counter at the Cape Town Sta­dium yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Sun­downs, at this early stage of the sea­son, are al­ready hav­ing to deal with a con­gested fix­ture list and, to pre­vent fa­tigue, they made no fewer than nine changes to the team which started against High­lands Park last Wed­nes­day. De­spite a sig­nif­i­cantly changed side, the Pre­to­ria club was still as com­pet­i­tive as ever – and City had to work re­ally hard for their win.

McCarthy was ex­tremely vo­cal in the build-up to this fix­ture, stat­ing that even though Sun­downs had lost two in­flu­en­tial play­ers in Percy Tau and Khama Bil­liat, he be­lieved the Pre­to­ria club had this sea­son, po­ten­tially, signed an even bet­ter player in Toni Silva.

The City coach, dur­ing his time at FC Porto in Por­tu­gal, had seen quite a bit of the young Silva, who was, at the time, a youth player at Ben­fica. On Sun­day af­ter­noon, in an en­ter­pris­ing first half, Silva gave no­tice of what McCarthy was re­fer­ring to. The new Sun­downs man caused City all sorts of prob­lems with his in­tel­li­gent move­ment, aware­ness of space and in­ci­sive run­ning.

As early as the sec­ond minute, he al­ready had City de­fend­ers Koassi Koadja and Taariq Fielies in trou­ble with the ref­eree for rash tack­les, with Fielies booked for a foul on the Guinea-Bis­sau striker.

The pos­ses­sion-based foot­ball of Sun­downs was very much in ev­i­dence as City chased shad­ows in the early stages of the match. The Capeto­ni­ans just couldn’t get a foot on the ball as the op­po­si­tion passed and moved with aplomb. Grad­u­ally, though, as things set­tled, City got into the thick of the ac­tion, and it made for a free-flow­ing, en­ter­tain­ing game. There may not have been all that much in the way of scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the open­ing 45 min­utes, but the foot­ball played was easy on the eye. For City, Matthew Rusike’s shot from inside the penalty area was well-saved by Sun­downs goal­keeper Kennedy Mweene and Roland Putsche headed over from a cor­ner-kick. For Sun­downs, in ad­di­tion to Silva’s ex­cel­lent ef­forts, the hard­work­ing Le­bo­gang Maboe ri­fled an at­tempt over the bar.

City came out of the start­ing blocks rather rapidly in the sec­ond half, had some re­ally invit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but failed to make the most of it, with Craig Martin’s miss from close in the most glar­ing. At the other end, Sun­downs gave as good as they got, and the cham­pion Pre­to­ria club was des­per­ately un­lucky when Sphelele Mkhulise rat­tled a shot against the cross­bar.

With 30 min­utes to go, it be­came ap­par­ent that Sun­downs were happy to play out a draw and take their chances in the sec­ond leg next week; they sat back and tried to catch City on the counter. It was a strat­egy that back­fired as it al­lowed the Cit­i­zens to turn up the gas and at­tack with more pur­pose – and, with the pres­sure start­ing to tell, it was no sur­prise when the goal came in the 75th minute. Ayanda Patosi whipped in the cor­ner-kick, sub­sti­tute Kwanda Mn­gonyama headed down at the far post, and Fielies re­acted quick­est to steer the ball into the net.

The goal will be cru­cial for City in the sec­ond leg, but the clean sheet is prob­a­bly even more im­por­tant. McCarthy was adamant that he didn’t want to con­cede and give Sun­downs the ben­e­fit of an away goal. So, with that in mind, the City coach will cer­tainly feel that yes­ter­day’s re­sult was a case of “job done”.

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