Captain Rainford Kalaba lifts the trophy in triumph after TP Mazembe won the Caf Confederation Cup against SuperSport United. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

ATTERIDGEVILLE – SuperSport United’s long, draining and character-building Caf Confederation Cup campaign ended in self-inflicted disappointment as they handed TP Mazembe the trophy by playing to a goalless draw in their own backyard on Saturday night.

Matsatsantsa a Pitori needed just one unanswered goal to become continental champions for the first time in the club’s history, having lost 2-1 in the first leg at Stade TP Mazembe.

They lacked the needed aggression to get that goal which they wouldn’t have needed had they been clinical in the first leg. It’s a harsh lesson that will strengthen them for their return to this competition next year.  

SuperSport couldn’t have asked for perfect conditions to make the most of their home advantage. The weather was cold while the pitch was wet and it drizzled throughout the match, allowing the ball to move easily and quicker.

These conditions were a huge contrast to the ones they played under in Lubumbashi last week – hot and on an artificial pitch that limited carpet football and made judging the ball hard with the uneven bounce.

The only aspect that was missing from making the conditions here even better for SuperSport was a packed stadium.

Despite the club offering free access to fans wearing blue t-shirts, they didn’t get a capacity crowd with Mazembe enjoying decent support that was louder than the home fans.   

The Ravens were comfortable on the ball and started the match as the better of the two teams.

SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler, seen here with the suspended Morgan Gould, will reflect on another lost opportunity for a Caf trophy. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

They created two glorious chances that would have further put SuperSport behind if they had converted them. The early scare woke Matsatsantsa up and they controlled the match from then on.

SuperSport stretched the visitors with their wingbacks, Siyabonga Nhlapo and Aubrey Modiba, who like to push forward.

But they didn’t capitalise from that strength on the wings with crosses either not good enough or were stopped by the solid and aerially-strong central defence pairing of Kabaso Chongo and Joel Kimwaki.

Chongo was sent off with eight minutes to go, forcing Mazembe to play with a man down for eight minutes. Thuso Phala’s sending off just before optional time levelled matters.

But by then, Mazembe were home and dry thanks to Kimwaki putting Jeremy Brockie in the same pocket he stifled him in, in the first leg to do what many clubs struggled to do in this competition, contain the New Zealand forward.

Brockie finished this tournament as the top goal-scorer with 10 goals, falling short of his target of 12.

A subtle brag from Mazembe coach, Pamphile Mihayo Kazembe, turned prophetic. The former Mazembe captain admitted that they weren’t quite at their best but their name and rich history instils fear on the opponents.

That’s how they found themselves in the final of the Confederation Cup for a second successive year despite being far from the great Mazembe sides of the past. SuperSport didn’t fear Mazembe. It was the Mazembe players who feared Mazembe.

They were driven by the desire to not let their name further fall down as playing in this tournament, even though they are the reigning champions, is somewhat embarrassing as that means they failed in the Caf Champions League.

That fear pushed them to give their fans something to cheer about. Kazembe, who as captain led Mazembe to being the first African club to reach the Fifa Club World Cup in 2010 built on that by helping the Ravens become the first side to retain this trophy as coach. 

 

IOL Sport