City claimed a ‘smash-and-grab’ victory at the FNB Stadium on Wednesday but suffered a huge blow as Mthembu had to be hauled off in as early as the ninth minute due to injury.
‘Shaka-Zulu’ had been launched down the flank before going down under a challenge from Chiefs centre-back Teenage Hadebe, who caught the stocky forward on the follow through of what seemed to be a legitimate challenge.
However, though admitting the ball was won cleanly, McCarthy felt the Zimbabwean international had every intention of hurting his talisman so as to disrupt The Citizen’s game-plan.
“I think we have to assess Shaka’s injury, but I know he’s probably the toughest player that I know in the league – he doesn’t go done very easily,” said McCarthy.
“I won’t say it was a malice tackle from Hadebe – he went for the ball; in fact, he won the ball cleanly, but that’s where it [should have] ended.
“You don’t still need to follow through and try to take a player out because it might be a career-threatening injury, and the boy is just starting to find his feet again.
“I think that’s the part that I don’t agree with, when players make those kinds of tackles, because I certainly tell my players to be a bit more careful with the opposition.”
While seated alongside opposite number Ernst Middendorp, the former Bafana Bafana star alluded that coaches ought to take responsibility for when their players’ show intent to do harm in challenges, much to the dismay of the German tactician.
“I don’t want none of my players to take responsibility for an irrational tackle, in which they want to win the ball but also take out the opponent,” he added.
“Because, if that tackle causes [serious] harm to the opposition, then I, as the coach – because the coach is the responsible party for that – would have to take responsibility.
“I think that was pretty dirty [from Hadebe], because he won the ball already, but the intention was also to take Shaka out and, yeah, they got what they wanted – we had to change tactics through a forced change, and so be it.”
McCarthy continued: “We couldn’t play the kind of football that we wanted to play, because Shaka was a pivotal point in our game-plan, and then he had to go off.
“Plus, you know Kermit has been out for so many months and he’s not 90-minutes game ready, so ideally you want to bring him in gradually, but I had to put him in.
“But hey, that’s football. I just hope for Shaka’s sake that he’s not out again for too long because now he’s got an opportunity and the football that we play could allow him to get the top goal scorer award [at the end of this season] … It was a ‘nice’ welcome from his ex-team.”