Su­per­Sport tar­get Con­fed Cup quar­ter-fi­nal

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MAZOLA MOLEFE

IT’s not quite the sec­ond bite of the cherry that would have meant most to them this sea­son, but Su­per­Sport United have another chance tonight to prove they have stay­ing power.

Cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing top spot in Group D of their CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup cam­paign, which in­cludes ti­tle hold­ers TP Mazembe from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, the South African side hosts the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons at the Lucas Moripe Sta­dium look­ing to put one foot in the quar­ter­fi­nals with a win.

Su­per­Sport failed in their quest to clinch the do­mes­tic Premier League dur­ing the 2016/17 sea­son de­spite hog­ging the sum­mit for sev­eral weeks, un­til the loss of form saw even­tual cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits leapfrog to the top as they slumped to fifth place.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup is al­to­gether a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish com­pared to the league marathon. Mat­sat­santsa are presently pace-set­ters with five points from their three group games, and vic­tory over Mazembe, a side they held to a 2-2 draw in Kin­shasa two weeks ago, would make them early favourites to progress to the next phase.

“We have two big games this week which have dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments in terms of per­for­mance,” said Kai­tano Tembo,

The Su­per­Sport as­sis­tant coach has had to step up quite a bit lately as Stu­art Bax­ter has had to come and go be­cause of his other com­mit­ment as Bafana Bafana men­tor. Tembo was also re­fer­ring to the Ned­bank Cup fi­nal against Orlando Pi­rates in Dur­ban on Satur­day night.

It was Tembo, held in high es­teem by the play­ers given he is a for­mer club cap­tain and due to his role now in the tech­ni­cal team, who trav­elled to the DRC as Bax­ter stayed be­hind to pre­pare Bafana for their 2019 Africa Cup of Na­tions open­ing qual­i­fier away to Nige­ria last week­end, a his­toric 2-0 win.

“I think we were in­tim­i­dated and un­set­tled there in the first 20 min­utes,” Tembo re­called the trip to Stade TP Mazembe, which was packed to ca­pac­ity as Su­per­Sport clawed their way back from 2-0 down.

“But we set­tled down and re­alised they can be beaten and we forced them to make mis­takes with the way we played our game. The crowd turned against them at some point and it favoured us as the away team. Some­times that is the dis­ad­van­tage of hav­ing such a huge fol­low­ing.

“I know that we will be a lot calmer and more set­tled this time around be­cause the con­di­tions are dif­fer­ent when we play at home, ob­vi­ously.”

Mazembe wouldn’t have won this com­pe­ti­tion last year if they were not good trav­ellers, and Tembo ex­pects them not to sit back, es­pe­cially given that a place in the next round is still very much up for grabs.

“We ex­pect them to come at us,” he said.

“They like to have the ball and have good play­ers (for their style), among them Tre­sor Mputu and their cap­tain Rain­ford Kal­aba.

“They are dan­ger­ous when it comes to one-on-one sit­u­a­tions, and they, too, will be calmer as well be­cause their huge fol­low­ing also puts them un­der pres­sure when they are at home.

“When they are play­ing away they are not un­der so much pres­sure.”

Su­per­Sport will have a new coach when they play their next Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup clash fol­low­ing tonight’s game against Mazembe as Eric Tin­kler of­fi­cially takes over from Stu­art Bax­ter on July 1 – the date for their match away to Horoya in Con­akry, the cap­i­tal of Guinea.

They round off their Group D fix­ture list six days later when they host Gabon’s CF Mounana, a team they thrashed 5-3 in Li­bre­ville last month.

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