Eric Tinkler rejoined Cape Town City five months ago this week, just in time to oversee two games at the end of last season. The first was a 3-1 comeback win over relegation bound Black Leopards, and the other was a 3-0 thumping at the hands of this weekend’s opponents and already crowned champions Sundowns. We’ll touch on that match later. The contrasting results from those two games were somewhat symbolic of the City we have seen in the first three months of this season. Indeed, there seem to be two sides to Tinkler’s Citizens.
The same team can demolish Swallows 4-0 the one week, and then lose to Sekhukhune the following week. They can eliminate CAF Champions League AmaZulu from the MTN8 one week, only to lose 3-0 to Stellenboach two games later. This see-saw nature appears even within the same game – as seen in their last encounter against Golden Arrows. City raced to a 4-0 lead in the first hour, before allowing Arrows three goals to set up a nervy finale.
With a relentless Sundowns hungry for a trophy that has long escaped them, Tinkler will need the real Cape Town City to stand up this weekend.
The cumulative xG timeline from their last league game shows how City dominated the first half in terms of chance creation in the opening hour of that thriller. Not only were 3-0 down by halftime, but they had not even allowed Arrows a single chance. The game seemed over.
However, City allowed Arrows to slowly come back into the game, and in just half an hour (and thanks to a penalty), the xG totals were almost identical. On Saturday, the game is unlikely to follow the same pattern, meaning City won’t be afforded a 3-0 lead to waste by half-time. Even a 1-0 lead may be fanciful – only two sides have led Sundowns at half-time in domestic competition since the start of last season.
In fact, the pattern of the game may be similar to City’s other 4-goal romp – the semi-final against Swallows – a cagey first half-hour, before opening up later on.
Neither side threatened much, before Bradley Ralani’s Mario Gotze moment three minutes before the break. City slowly pulled away and were 3-0 up with just a quarter of the game to go. This was a more controlled performance, and Swallows did not even get a chance to mount a comeback.
No doubt, Tinkler (and his fingernails) will prefer the second type of City.
Their opponents on Sunday need no introduction. Tinkler has lost more matches against Sundowns than against any other side (9), with the latest of these coming at the end of last season. However, despite the 3-0 defeat, City still created enough on the day. A 2-1 loss would have been more reflective of their chances.
City should have scored in the opening 2 minutes, and even while training 0-1, they created enough to equalise. Their 1.37 worth of xG in that game is the second-highest xG created by a side playing Sundowns in the 15 games since they were crowned champions (after Chiefs’ 1.41xG in September).
This is the City that Tinkler will be hoping for on Sunday, plus the finishing touch to go with.