United fly the coop, steal valuable point from Ravens
IN what would have been considered a true test for SuperSport United in the CAF Confederation Cup group phase, the South African passed with flying colours as the held defending champions TP Mazembe to a 2-2 draw in Lubumbashi.
The general feeling was that SuperSport have been coasting in their previous encounters – a 2-2 stalemate in their opening Group D match at home against Horoya of Guinea and then smashing CF Mounana 5-3 in Gabon last week.
Five-time continental champions Mazembe won this competition fairly comfortable last year coming up against weaker sides, but a repeat looks unlikely this season. And SuperSport proved as much. The home side did take the lead in the first half when striker Ben Malango used his quick legs to leave the opposition defence stranded and break the deadlock. Five minutes later it was captain Rainford Kalaba who breached the SuperSport defence again, cleverly finishing from close range, and it almost appeared the game was over as a contest. But Aubrey Modiba,
pictured, pulled an equaliser back from the visitors seconds later, giving them a boost and rattling Mazembe, whose supporters were silenced.
The hosts found it hard to bully SuperSport in the second half, the expectant crowd also getting what they are hardly used to as Mazembe battled to add to their tally.
Instead it was SuperSport who got back on level terms just after the hour mark when young Teboho Mokoena, fresh from the under-20 World Cup in South Korea where he was representing South Africa, scored with a thumping header to make it 2-2.
Although they were under siege for most of the minutes that remained, SuperSport would have bought themselves some credibility in the tournament by visiting the title holders and playing so gallantly, with a full strength squad, and going toe-to-toe with a side not used to being pushed back in their own backyard.
The vital point takes them joint top of the group with Horoya and Mazembe, with the next round of fixtures on June 20, when SuperSport welcome Mazembe to the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville – four days before Matsatsantsa have to play Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup final, a tournament that will guarantee they return to the Confederation Cup next year should they win.
Mazembe will feel they should have done more, and, in truth, SuperSport were lucky not to have conceded a third or even a fourth.
But there would be no further additions to the score sheet, which will mean this was a huge result away from home for Stuart Baxter’s men, even in the absence of their coach, who is gearing up for Bafana’s trip to Nigeria in their opening Africa Cup of Nations qualifier later this week.