Phala and Co brace for fi­nals run


THUSO Phala, the two-goal hero for Su­perS­port United in their CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup quar­ter-fi­nal tri­umph away to Zam­bia’s ZEZCO United at the week­end, was a lit­tle cau­tious to com­mit­ting to the state­ment – but Mat­sat­santsa may fi­nally be liv­ing up to ex­pec­ta­tion.

Now that they are just two fix­tures, the home and away leg against Club Africain of Tu­nisia, from reach­ing the fi­nal of the con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tion and al­ready have a date with Cape Town City in the fi­nal of the MTN8 on Oc­to­ber 14, the gen­eral feel­ing is that Phala and his team­mates are on the cusps of sev­eral milestones.

“You could say that,” said the scorer of two well-taken goals at the Levy Mwanawasa Sta­dium, where Mat­sat­santsa held the hosts to a 2-2 draw and pro­gressed to the semi-fi­nals of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup through the away goals rule.

“Last sea­son we fin­ished the sea­son by win­ning a cup (the Ned­bank Cup) and we are on our way to an­other one in the do­mes­tic league. We could po­ten­tially be in­volved in four fi­nals in a row (count­ing the Telkom Knock­out in De­cem­ber last year) in less than 12 months.

“That on its own is mo­ti­va­tion for the play­ers. It might be a cliché, but the mood in the camp is re­ally quite high and pos­i­tive.”

Su­perS­port are also feed­ing off coach Eric Tin­kler’s energy.

The 1996 Africa Cup of Na­tions win­ner with Bafana Bafana missed out on what he said at the time would have been his crown­ing mo­ment as a coach when Or­lando Pi­rates lost to Etoile du Sa­hel in the fi­nal of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup two years ago while he was in charge.

“Maybe we are rid­ing on his luck,” Phala said. “But it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the club also worked very hard to keep the play­ers that were there last sea­son.

“I can’t point my fin­ger at what ex­actly it was that was hold­ing us back in terms of reach­ing our po­ten­tial, but it looks like we are fi­nally get­ting there this time around.

“The coach knows what its like to be at this stage of the com­pe­ti­tion and his ex­pe­ri­ence will help.”

Tin­kler was puz­zled that his men were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Chippa United in a Premier League match a few days be­fore mak­ing the trip to Ndola. But would have ob­vi­ously been proud to see them put up a brave fight un­til Phala scored with what was vir­tu­ally the last kick of the ball to en­sure pas­sage to the next round af­ter Su­perS­port had con­ceded quite early in ei­ther half against ZESCO, who hadn’t lost or con­ceded in their own back­yard through­out this year’s tour­na­ment.

“I think we had one eye on the CAF game,” said Phala in re­flect­ing back to that de­flat­ing draw against Chippa.

“Be­cause of that, I think we can be happy that we didn’t drop max­i­mum points and are still with the chas­ing pack in the league. This week is much bet­ter.

“The PSL has come on board be­cause we don’t have a mid­week game to dis­tract us. We play Club Africain at home first, so it is im­por­tant not to con­cede.”

That ap­proach hurt Mamelodi Sun­downs in the Cham­pi­ons League at the week­end as they bowed out in Ra­bat, leav­ing Su­perS­port to be the only SA rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ments, but Phala and his team­mates are buzzing so much they will stick to what they know come Satur­day. @su­per­journo

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