United chas­ing his­tory

But first they have to get past Zesco in the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup quar­ter-finals

The Star Early Edition - - AUCTIONS - NJABULO NGIDI

WHAT started out as an ex­er­cise to test the depth of Su­per­Sport United’s squad could turn into a his­tory-mak­ing ex­pe­di­tion for the Tsh­wane side that’s three rounds away from be­ing CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup cham­pi­ons.

Mat­sat­santsa a Pi­tori take on Zesco United tonight at Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium as both sides make their first ap­pear­ance in the quar­ter-finals of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup. This is al­ready a big achieve­ment for Su­per­Sport who started this cam­paign by field­ing fringe play­ers in the qual­i­fy­ing rounds be­fore as­sis­tant coach Kai­tano Tembo led his charges in the group stage while the club phased it­self from the Stu­art Bax­ter era and into Eric Tin­kler’s ten­ure.

Tin­kler al­most made his­tory with Or­lando Pi­rates two years ago by lead­ing the Buc­ca­neers to glory in this tour­na­ment for the first time in the club’s his­tory but lost to Tu­nisian gi­ants Etoile du Sa­hel in the fi­nal. Tin­kler is driven to make up for that dis­ap­point­ment by go­ing one step fur­ther and give Mat­sat­santsa their first con­ti­nen­tal crown.

“You have to play clever foot­ball to suc­ceed in these com­pe­ti­tions, es­pe­cially at this stage,” Tin­kler said. “What be­comes ex­tremely im­por­tant when you are play­ing at home isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the win but what is im­por­tant is not con­ced­ing. It’s very, very im­por­tant to keep a clean sheet at home. If you look back in my times when we were in the Cham­pi­ons League and Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup (with Pi­rates) that’s where we let our­selves down, con­ced­ing those goals at home.

“You will find it a lot more dif­fi­cult to break the op­po­si­tion’s de­fence in their own back­yard. You have to play with a lot of in­tel­li­gence at this stage of the tour­na­ment. I think that the ear­lier rounds, with all due re­spect, are a lot eas­ier. This is the busi­ness end of the com­pe­ti­tion where you need to be tac­ti­cally as­tute and dis­ci­plined. You have to be clever in terms of which mo­ments you look to hurt the op­po­si­tion.”

Su­per­Sport and Zesco are both in a tran­si­tional pe­riod with new coaches at the helm. The Zam­bian side is led by Ser­bian Zlatko Krm­potic who re­placed Ge­orge Lwan­damina in Fe­bru­ary. Lwan­damina guided Zesco to the semi-finals of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League last year, a first for the club. They were elim­i­nated by even­tual win­ners and Su­per­Sport’s ri­vals Mamelodi Sun­downs. The Zam­bian side will be look­ing to not lose to another club from Tsh­wane in the knock­out stage af­ter they were let down by not killing off the con­test at the Levy Mwanawasa Sta­dium. Zesco topped a tough grouped that fea­tured Egypt’s Smouha, Re­cre­ativo do Li­bolo of An­gola and Su­dan’s Al-Hi­lal El Obeid.

“I know ev­ery­one from the play­ers to the coach at Su­per­Sport,” Krm­potic said. “I watched them here live when they played Kaizer Chiefs (in the league). Su­per­Sport play good foot­ball. They started with a 4-3-3 for­ma­tion and then changed to 4-4-2 af­ter in­tro­duc­ing (Jeremy) Brockie. In the last 20 min­utes they changed back to 4-3-3. They are a good team with good play­ers. But we also have good play­ers. What is im­por­tant for us is to be dis­ci­plined on the field. We want to go all the way in this com­pe­ti­tion. We played well in the group stage. Some games, like we did in An­gola, we didn’t play well and lost. But even when we lose we cre­ate good chances which bode well for us.”

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