United fly the coop, steal valu­able point from Ravens

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - SOC­CER WRITER

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.

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