Benni McCarthy showered his team with plaudits after they overcame difficult conditions in Lubumbashi to get past TP Mazembe and into the group stages of the Caf Champions League.
AmaZulu got a 1-1 draw on an artificial surface at the Stade TP Mazembe, to get through on the away goals rule, following a goalless draw a week earlier in Durban. Bongi Ntuli got the all-important goal in the 37th minute, meaning a stoppage time equaliser from the Congolese side was insignificant.
McCarthy’s abrasive coaching style can lead him to appear overly-critical of his players at times, and as recently as Tuesday last week he hammered his team for the way they had played despite a 1-0 win over TS Galaxy.
There was none of that, however, after the win in Lubumbashi, with McCarthy also accusing the home team of using a ‘fake positive’ Covid test for defender Thapelo Xoki to try and disrupt his side’s preparations.
“I know sometimes I am a tough coach,” said McCarthy.
“A tough father, but I only want the best for my players, my kids. You can’t have the ability and quality that we have and be mediocre. So when I am critical of the team it is because I know what we have and don’t want us to lower our standards.
“Today they showed me what I see every day (in training). I saw heart, character, personality, arrogance, and I saw a football team and a group of players not afraid of anything, especially after what we had on the eve of the game.”
McCarthy went on to explain that despite constantly testing negative for Covid-19, Mazembe tried to claim that Xoki was positive, only to relent and let him play just before kick off.
“Our Covid tests were negative since arriving, and then on the eve of the game, they targetted one of our most important defenders, Thapelo Xoki. We took them to the same lab on the day of the game, and they (his tests) came back negative, but they said it was positive. We launched a complaint and were only told ten minutes before kick off that he could play.
“For my team to have gone through that and to go out and batter Mazembe, we had never played on an astroturf, for us to put in the performance that we did, these are the real heroes of AmaZulu. They (Mazembe) are seasoned campaigners, and one of the toughest teams in the competition … I am delighted to be in charge of this group of players. They are history makers. We were the first AmaZulu team to finish second in the league, and now we are the first to qualify for the Champions League group stages.”