McCarthy talks up new goalie
Posted: 7 August 2018 Time: 16:00
Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy was full of praise for new goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh following his debut, and admits Sage Stephens will have a tough time breaking into the team.
Leeuwenburgh, who joined from the Ajax Amsterdam academy last month, was favoured ahead of last season’s preferred starter Stephens for City's opening league clash against SuperSport United, where he kept a clean sheet in his team’s 2-0 win.
“I was very happy with Peter’s debut,” McCarthy said of his gloveman’s first official game in South Africa. “He wasn’t really tested, but when called upon, he showed his worth and showed why we were so fortunate to get him. And the difference he brings to the team – that calmness and composure, which I think scared the opposition. He’s a huge figure at the back, which I think for us is really good.”
McCarthy concedes that Stephens, who leapfrogged initial first-choice Shu-Aib Walters for the number one jersey last season, faces a tough challenge to reclaim his spot between the posts.
“Sage initially came in as a back-up to Shu-Aib, but because I believed in him and showed him that if he trains and works hard, he’ll get to play, and he then made the jersey his own,” McCarthy said. “He was unbelievable in pre-season, but then we were fortunate enough to get Peter, who was 14 years at Ajax Amsterdam – nobody gets more than one season there if you’re not good enough, so he must have some kind of pedigree, even if he was only with the reserves. But he’s come through all the age groups, where you get assessed every year, meaning he was better than everyone else there.
“So a guy with 14 years' European experience can’t come here and be less than what Sage is. We’ve got two really good goalkeepers that can push and encourage each other, so Sage has to understand this. Peter had a blinder against Chiefs in pre-season, and I think from there Sage knew he was up for a fight. I spoke to him, and he understands that competition is healthy, and that Peter won’t necessarily always be number one, and that he must continue working. It wasn’t easy for him to take, but he accepted it. I’m happy to have two top-class goalkeepers.”
Along with Leeuwenburgh, McCarthy fielded three other debutants in Ivorian defender Kouassi Kouadja, winger Riyaad Norodien and striker Siphelele Mthembu, and was pleased with all three’s contribution.
“Everyone played well,” he said. “It was Koassi’s first game in South African football – he played in Russia before and all over Eastern Europe, but South Africa is a different animal. He is still adjusting, but he showed his aggression and his calmness on the ball, so he’s a work in progress, but I think he was excellent.
“Getting Norodien was a blessing as he can play across all three positions in attacking midfield, as a number 10, 7 or 11, so we are spoilt for choice.
“‘Shaka’ [Mthembu] is going to be an important player for us and you saw that in his performance.”
City are next in action against Baroka in their second Absa Premiership clash on Wednesday evening.