Sekhukhune, SuperSport’s hopes of Confederation Cup glory hanging by a thread

Supersport United head coach Gavin Hunt

FILE - Supersport United head coach Gavin Hunt. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 12, 2023


The chances of a South African club winning the continent’s secondary club knockout competition for a second time are slim to none, and slim appears to have just left town.

Not since Kaizer Chiefs captured the CAF Cup Winners’ Cup (Mandela Cup) back in 2001 has a club from this country been victorious in the competition now referred to as the CAF Confederation Cup, after the merger of the Cup Winners’ Cup and CAF Cup in 2004.

South African clubs have contested the final three times – Orlando Pirates in 2015 and last year, and SuperSport United in 2017 – and three times they played the bridesmaid’s role.

Hopes that there would be success this year were dashed on Sunday night when SuperSport suffered a 2-1 away defeat to Al Hilal

Benghazi, their third loss in as many matches in the round robin stage to essentially drop out of contention for a place in the knockout stage.

Gavin Hunt’s team were victims of that good old football ailment of switching off during a critical phase of the game, Matsatsantsa a Pitori conceding the second goal just two minutes after Gampani Lungu had cancelled out the opener from Muetasimballah Al Taeb, who also scored the winner.

It would take a miracle for the team that was beaten 2-1 on aggregate by TP Mazembe in the 2017 final to finish in second spot behind USM Alger in a Group A that it is currently propping up.

SuperSport need to win all three of their remaining matches and hope that Modern Future and Al Hilal get beaten in all of theirs – an impossibility given that the Egyptian and Libyan outfits have to face each other still.

The second South African team in the competition, Sekhukhune United, are not yet dead and buried, but their goalless draw at home against Stade Malien has left them with a Herculean task to earn a spot in the knockout stage. Babina Noko and the Mali outfit are in a two-way battle for second spot behind Morocco’s RS Berkane and Lehlohonolo Seema had rightly said they needed to win the home match to give themselves a chance.

They did not, though, and now find themselves under pressure to go to Bamako and win if they are to reach the quarter-finals.

Seema was not about to throw in the towel, though.

“We will go back and try refresh. Hopefully when we get to Mali we can create more chances (than we did here at home) and come up with a point and even more. We are clear that the goals are going to come to the party,” he said.

He was referring to goal difference but in CAF competitions teams tied on points are first separated by head-to-head results before goal difference is considered.

A stalemate with goals in Bamako next week will work in Sekhkhune’s favour should they end up tied on points with Malien.

“When we play away (in Bamako) we are not going to try and score 10 goals, we will try get one goal and try to defend because it is vital that we get the win and three points there. We continue to bank on winning here at home,” he said, in reference of their last home tie, which will be against the marauding former champions RS Berkane, who have won all three of their matches.

Their failure to beat Malien at the Peter Mokaba Stadium makes it hard to foresee them getting three points off Berkane.

Stranger things have happened in this game, although the reality is that there is a slim chance of South Africa getting a second champion in the continent’s secondary club knockout competition.

IOL Sport