Benni McCarthy rails against "gangster" football after loss

Benni McCarthy: Not going to be an easy obstacle to clear. Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Elimination from Africa's Confederation Cup was described as a 'blessing in disguise' by Cape Town City FC coach Benni McCarthy, who labelled Sunday's loss against Costa do Sol as a 'bloody Sunday league gangster game'.

The former South Africa international was furious after the match at Athlone Stadium, which involved physical altercations between coaches, and the game itself was marked by six different on-field dust-ups throughout a tempestuous 90 minutes.

Mozambique's Costa do Sol upset City with a 2-1 win, scoring from a corner late in the game to take victory in the second round, second leg tie. They thus advanced to next month's third round on the away goals rule, after having lost the first leg at home 10 days earlier.

McCarthy accused the Mozambicans of playing 'gangster' football and said he was relieved none of his players had suffered any serious injury - particularly as City next play high-flying Mamelodi Sundowns at home in the quarter-finals of the South African FA Cup.

"It was more like a bloody Sunday league gangster game there. It ended up being really psychical and intimidating for the younger players. I've never been involved in a game where there were so many fights," McCarthy told reporters.

"The referee had no control over the game and I was more scared of losing some of my players for the rest of the season because of the tackles that were flying and him doing absolutely nothing.

"I know people will criticise me for this, but maybe us going out is a blessing in disguise because at least now I know my players are going to be safer in the Cup and the league because our officials have way more control over the game than this.

"If this was a PSL game, [Costa do Sol] would have had two or three players sent off in the first half.

"l'll take the PSL all day, every day over playing in [continental competitions]," the former Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United striker added.

But McCarthy's own team were not as innocent as he made out, with a few flying tackles of their own, including a kung-fu style attempt at a tackle by centre back Taariq Fielies, that went completely unpunished by Ethiopian referee Belay Tadesse, who lost control of the encounter early on.

City are the first South African side knocked out of this year's continental competitions, which McCarthy said he was using to give fringe players some game time.

He said: "The learning curve was nice, it was a good experience. We've learnt a lot and about the difference between playing in Africa and the PSL.

"It's a missed opportunity, it would have been nice to have gone further because I wanted to use the competition to rotate the players.

"I loved this tournament for that reason and I'm gutted but at the end of the day this is a chance now gone and opportunities for places in the side becomes slimmer."