ATTERIDGEVILLE – SuperSport United will have to do what no team has done this year in the Caf Confederation Cup if they are to advance to the semi-finals after being held to a goalless draw by Zesco United on Friday night.
That is to either beat Zesco at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, Zambia next Saturday, or play to a draw with goals.
The positive for Matsatsantsa a Pitori from this leg is that they didn’t give Zesco an away goal.
The visitors didn’t exactly search for that goal frantically, as keeping SuperSport away from scoring was their main objective, and they achieved that.
Now they will look to turn on the magic that saw them win all their games in Ndola in this tournament to make it a second successive semi-final appearance in Caf competitions after also reaching the last four of the Caf Champions League last year.
SuperSport coach Eric Tinkler stood like a headmaster in the technical area in his grey suit, holding a clipboard that had the notes he furiously wrote with each bad decision and bad pass from his team.
And there were plenty of those. SuperSport struggled to break down a disciplined Zesco defence that frustrated the hosts with their tenacity and the large numbers they quickly put behind the ball.
This was a low-key welcome for Tinkler to the tournament he almost won with Orlando Pirates two years ago, losing in the final to Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel.
But this time around he only started in the quarter-finals after Stuart Baxter and mainly Kaitano Tembo guided the team through the qualifying rounds and the group stage.
In those matches, especially the group stage, SuperSport only won one of their home matches, but were strong on the road – scoring seven goals in three matches.
On Friday night, they lost the battle in the stands hands down. Zesco fans were more colourful and louder than their SuperSport counterparts.
It was appropriate that the Zambians occupied the grandstand as they looked and sounded like the home fans.
On the field, Reneilwe Letsholonyane was at home – bossing the midfield and spraying passes at will. “Yeye” was only let down by the people on the receiving end of his passes, especially Bradley Grobler, who started on a shaky foot.
This southern African derby was played with a friendly spirit despite the competitiveness that exists between South Africa and Zambia – the only nations in the Cosafa region with an Africa Cup of Nations crown.
But that friendly spirit masked a disappointing outing for the fans, who had to entertain themselves as neither of the goalkeepers were tested.
The second leg is likely to be a more open affair as Zesco need a goal to take control of the match, and any response with a goal for Matsatsantsa will put them in a comfortable position.
SuperSport’s problem was that they didn’t take this match by the scruff of its neck. Thuso Phala tried to do that early in the match, but his fire was quickly extinguished by an orange brick wall that stood in front of him.
Phala and company will need to be more inventive in Ndola if they are to continue their continental journey that started with testing the club’s depth by fielding fringe players in the earlier rounds.