JOHANNESBURG – SuperSport United will look to test an in-form Highlands Park when the teams meet in the final Absa Premiership match of the calendar year at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa on Sunday (start 3.30pm).
Highlands have claimed seven points from the last nine up for grabs and claimed their first away win of the season earlier this week, defeating Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 on December 17 thanks to goals from Mothobi Mvala and Peter Shalulile.
The Lions of the North have claimed 11 points from six home matches this season, with their last result as hosts a 2-0 win over Cape Town City on December 1.
SuperSport broke a three-game winless streak in the league by defeating Maritzburg United 1-0 at home on December 15. Four of the Tshwane side’s six victories this season have been with a 1-0 scoreline.
Matsatsantsa have claimed just nine points from eight away matches this season, with their last result on the road a 1-0 loss at Kaizer Chiefs on December 12.
In head-to-head stats, Highlands and SuperSport have met in just two previous top-flight matches. Both encounters took place in the 2016/17 season, with Matsatsantsa completing a league ‘double’ with a 4-1 home win and 1-0 away victory.
Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama said he urged his team to be optimistic ahead of the match.
“This was grit, this was all about fighting to the bitter end, and if this is what Highlands Park is about we’ve got a lot of good days ahead of us,” said da Gama in the wake of Monday’s 2-1 away win over Bloemfontein Celtic.
“The victory is sweet, but the determination and the spirit of the team are what we are happier about.”
He added, “Makhulong is a hard place to come and play. It’s going to be very hard for us [because] SuperSport have just won their last game as well.
“They’re a very, very good team, well organised. They are well established in the Premier League, they know how to win games, but I think we are slowly getting there.”
SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo said his concerns centred round his team's strike force when scoring chances beckoned.
“We’re still lacking in the final third but we are working [on it]. You can see we are trying to move the team, playing a few more youngsters,” said Tembo after the win over Maritzburg.
“That’s the direction we want to try and take because we want to build for next season as much as we want results [now].”
He added, “I was really happy with the performance of the guys, we really fought hard for this win.”
Highlands Park will be counting on midfielder Mothobi Mvala to continue his remarkable scoring spree after netting in Highlands’ 2-1 away win over Bloemfontein Celtic. He’s a genuine danger man and SuperSport United will have to keep a close eye on his late runs into the penalty area.
The experienced goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has been a cornerstone of the Highlands Park team and will once again be called upon to organise his backline and act as the last line of defence. SuperSport have a potent attack and Kapini is sure to be heavily involved in the clash at Makhulong Stadium.
SuperSport United will be hoping for an improved performance from their key players.
Though the attacking midfielder Aubrey Modiba was guilty of some glaring misses in the match against Maritzburg, he still converted the decisive penalty with aplomb. Modiba remains one of the most prominent up-and-coming stars in the Absa Premiership and will hope to end 2018 on a high.
Phumlani Ntshangase, the hard-working midfielder, put in an epic shift against Maritzburg last weekend, helping SuperSport gain control of the ‘engine room’.
However, against Highlands, he will again be called upon to protect his back four by covering ground and winning back possession in the middle of the park.
African News Agency (ANA)