JOHANNESBURG – SuperSport United continued with their MTN8 title defence after needing the lottery of the penalties to win their clash 4-3 in a shoot-out against Orlando Pirates after a 2-2 stalemate in regulation time on Saturday night.
To the Pirates faithful, Augustine Mulenga’s casual approach to a penalty in the last minutes of extra time is something that will be fresh on their minds for days to come as it could have changed the outcome of the game.
In the opening stages, both teams needed no motivation to play their normal game as they were looking to continue with the momentum from mid-week triumphs.
With congestion of the fixtures between the Absa Premiership and cup competitions, Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic gave Ben Motshwari and Linda Mntambo their first full debuts while resting Musa Nyatama and Paseka Mako after their midweek feature against Chippa United.
Sredojevic’s intentions were clear, to attack, hence starting Zambian duo Justin Shonga and Mulenga upfront.
And his boys did just that as newbie Motshwari made an immediate impact. The former Bidvest Wits man created space himself just outside SuperSport’s box, before setting up Mulenga to slot past Ronwen Williams.
Motshwari and Xola Mlambo looked to have been the marshals in the heart of the midfield, hence dishing out some delightful passes for their forwards upfront.
But the experienced duo of Supersport Dean Furman and Reneilwe Letsholonyane would quickly take the cherry away from the youngsters and mobilise the centre of the park on their own terms.
And that was the perfect turnaround the visitors needed, as they quickly responded through a delightful outside curler from skipper Furman.
And with the home side’s midfield destablised, it was a freeway to that Pirates defence.
Evans Rusike came close with his initial attempt, only for goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane to deny him.
However, Rusike would not need a second invite to get his name on the score-sheet, as he did so with a calm finish from close range after being teed up by Bradley Grobler.
After that lead, the Mighty Buccaneers came to an unbearable silence as they had to dig deep and go in search of an equaliser, and the players had to find an immediate response.
Fortunately with luck on their side, Sredojevic’s man got the much needed equaliser after a Happy Jele’s failed attempt at goal rebounded back to the path of Mlambo, and the midfielder unleashed a shot that took a deflection and sailed past Williams.
After that, it was each man for himself as either side chased for the winner, but it was not to be as the match headed to extra time.
With stamina now dropped in Matsantsantsa a Pitori’s midfield, an energetic Mlambo took back the reigns.
The home side looked to have revived their shape and structure, but it was a bit tougher to penetrate, considering that the entire SuperSport team went back to defend.