04.04.2021 22:04 h

Coach McCarthy enhances reputation as AmaZulu rise to third

Former South Africa star Benni McCarthy enhanced his coaching reputation Sunday by lifting AmaZulu to third in the Premiership, with many football followers believing he should take over the national team.

Siyethemba Sithebe scored on 57 minutes to deliver a 1-0 win at bottom club Black Leopards and take the Durban outfit from fifth to within three points of leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.

Defending champions Sundowns have 40 points, Golden Arrows and AmaZulu 37 each, SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates 35 each and Swallows 33 moving into the final third of the 30-round season.

While Sundowns have matches in hand on all their rivals as they seek a fourth straight title, the struggle for second place and CAF Champions League qualification is wide open.

Molefi Ntseki was fired as Bafana Bafana coach this week after losing in Sudan and failing to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

As a debate raged over who should succeed him ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe on June 8, McCarthy was the choice of many pundits given his dramatic turnaround of AmaZulu.

He inherited last December a team that had won only once in seven outings -- at home to Leopards -- and seemed likelier relegation candidates than title contenders.

McCarthy debuted with a win over Chippa United and the success against Leopards in remote northeastern town Thohoyandou gave him a nine win, five draw, two loss record in all competitions.

Climbing to third is a remarkable achievement after many followers dismissed as wishful thinking the boast of McCarthy when he took over that his goal was "a top four league finish".

"Benni knows the game having played and scored at the highest level. He is now making his mark as a coach," said former South Africa boss Clive Barker this week.

Forward McCarthy helped Porto win the 2004 UEFA Champions League and also played for Ajax Amsterdam, Celta Vigo, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United before finishing his career at Orlando Pirates.

His coaching career began as an assistant at Belgian outfit Sint-Truiden and he spent two years in charge of Cape Town City, winning a knockout competition, before taking over AmaZulu.

Arrows were unlucky not to be even closer to Sundowns as they conceded a 94th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Swallows, who have shared the points in 12 of 20 matches.