Benni McCarthy braces for tricky continental test
Coach wants to make the home game count against DRC club Mazembe
Benni McCarthy has already learnt important lessons during AmaZulu’s maiden appearance in the Caf Champions League and he is determined to avoid making the same mistakes as the Durban side continue their journey in the continent’s premier club competition.
AmaZulu host Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) side TP Mazembe in a first-leg Champions League first round match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Friday, and McCarthy is well aware that his charges will be punished if they make similar mistakes to the ones made against Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi in the preliminary stages of the competition last month.
The Durban side had to overcome a 1-0 home defeat to Bullets before clawing their way back in the return match to win 3-2 on aggregate after a 3-1 score in Lilongwe, with Bongi Ntuli scoring a brace and Siphelele Mthembu getting the other goal.
McCarthy said they will have to ensure they get a positive result against five-time Champions League winners Mazembe before they embark on the away trip to Lubumbashi, where they will play on an artificial pitch the DRC club rarely loses matches on.
“We just have to make sure the home game is a positive one and it’s one that will give us something to go to DRC with ... something worth fighting for,” McCarthy said.
“We can’t make another slip-up like we did against Nyasa Bullets, where our home game was not so good and then we had to go all the way to [Malawi] to do the impossible. But I think this time around we’ve tried to learn from our mistakes and we’re going to try to make home advantage count.”
Mazembe will be tough nuts to crack and McCarthy will hope his charges emulate champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who broke the DRC club’s astonishing home record of more than 70 matches without a defeat in the Champions League in Lubumbashi.
The AmaZulu coach said the artificial pitch at the Stade TP Mazembe is his biggest worry as he contemplates the challenges they will face in the second leg on October 23.
“We’ve never played on an artificial pitch,” said McCarthy. “They’re very, very strong at home because they know the conditions, they know the pitch inside out while most [visiting teams] don’t. That’s why it’s difficult to go there and get a positive result.
“But, like I said, we want to go into the group stages and we know that no matter how difficult and complicated the situation is, we have to overcome all our obstacles [to get there].
“It means we have to go to Mazembe and give it everything we have got to make sure that we get a good enough result that will get to the group stages. We just have to make sure we don’t lose at home.”