On Tuesday night Benni McCarthy was the architect of a 1-1 draw between his Cape Town City and defending PSL Champions Mamelodi Sundowns, here is how set up the achievement.
PSL tactical review – Mobara in Midfield
In terms of team selection, McCarthy looked to stiffen his central midfield area by moving the versatile Abbubaker Mobara into that area alongside Thato Mokeke. Further forward, he went without his usual number ten in Dutchman, Christofer David and instead used Mpho Makola higher up for his great defensive nous.
The effect of this change was to have three genuine central midfielders to match up to Masandawana, who themselves have been setting up differently in that area this season. As Hlompho Kekana is now 34 and needs more careful management, he has moved slightly further forward with Sibusiso Vilakazi dropping deeper. This means a switch from just two players in deeper midfield areas to three.
The result is freeing up Kekana to attack more whilst spreading the responsibility of building the play between more players. It didn’t take long for the Sundowns captain to rifle in a goal of the season contender from his more advanced role, but generally, City’s plan worked well once they got to grips with it. Mobara, having been bypassed for that strike, stuck close to Kekana, whilst Mokeke and Makola also looked to man-mark in that area. Sundowns were instead funnelled wide.
Pitso Moves to Front Two
Having seen his side have some difficulties in penetrating centrally, Pitso Mosimane withdrew Gaston Sirino and brought on a second striker in Keletso Makgalwa. This saw a change to a 4-2-2-2 shape with Vilakazi and Zwane playing as two number tens and therefore creating a spare man against City’s midfield three.
When Makgalwa was forced off with injury, Mosimane introduced right back, Anele Ngcongca and moved Thapelo Morena up front to partner Lebohang Maboe in order to keep the same shape. Having a front pairing meant greater pressure on Cape Town City’s central defenders, especially when trying to play out from the back. Morena’s pace also pushed the defenders deeper, creating more space for the two number tens to operate.
In a more functional strategy like this one, having a good out-ball in attack is crucial and Kermit Erasmus fulfilled that role perfectly. His pace and movement caused problems for Mosa Lebusa and Wayne Arendse, whilst it was his pass that put Mokeke through on goal for a clear opportunity that went a-begging. McCarthy has been using the 29-year-old as a number nine this season instead of Siphelele Mthebu and it looks the best approach against tougher opposition.
This PSL game showed that Benni McCarthy is continuing to evolve as a coach. Having set his team up to play very open, adventurous football last season in every match, this showed a more canny approach. A simple tweak in midfield limited Sundowns’ chances, whilst his side arguably created the clearer openings. It has been a solid, if unspectacular start to the campaign for Cape Town City, with five points from three games and no defeats. With Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United to play in their next two games, we are sure to get an indication of their title credentials.
For Sundowns, this game showed that whilst Kekana’s new role brought a fantastic goal early on whilst City adjusted to their plan, his side looks far less dangerous when the captain is not given room to operate. That it took a wonder goal to breach City shows that McCarthy’s tactics worked well and they will leave as the happier side with a draw from a tough away game.