PRETORIA - SuperSport United fought bravely but they were undone by Gor Mahia’s away goal that knocked them out of the Caf Confederation Cup with this tie ending 2-2 on aggregate.
If the hosts hadn’t started slow, they would have reached the group stage of this tournament for a second year in a row.
Their opponents were there for the taking but by the time SuperSport woke up, Gor Mahia were smart enough to manage the game.
Despite this setback, the positive is that Matsatsantsa a Pitori possess a strong fighting spirit that will come in handy in their fight to avoid relegation.
The build-up to this match for the 16-time champions was chaotic from their financial troubles to key players failing to obtain visas.
Gor Mahia were bailed out by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko who paid for their flights to South Africa.
The Kenyan giants only arrived on Tuesday which meant that they had limited time to acclimatise to the conditions.
Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr had to make do without Rwandan Jacques Tuyisenge, who converted the late penalty in the first leg and Ephrem Guikan of the Ivory Coast as the pair’s work permits didn’t meet the requirements for them to be granted South African visas.
Francis Kahata made the trip and was in the starting line-up. He almost didn’t make it as his passport didn’t have the required two empty pages.
Whoever facilitated that administrative blunder helped the Kenyans as Kahata tormented SuperSport’s defence.
The Kenyan pulled the strings for Gor Mahia with his skills and clever running.
He silenced an already pathetic crowd with an equaliser from George Odhambo’s cross a minute after his captain Haron Shakava had scored in his own net. That goal proved to be golden for Gor Mahia.
While Gor Mahia’s problems were administrative, SuperSport’s issues are on the field as they flirt with relegation. Interim coach Kaitano Tembo fielded a relatively young team with his main focus being to avoid relegation.
A number of key players like captain Dean Furman, Clayton Daniels, Aubrey Modiba and Thuso Phala were rested in this match that guaranteed the winners a place in the group stage of the Confederation Cup.
Matsatsantsa were there last season, going all the way to reach the final before crashing down in the domestic league due to the heavy workload that followed in their catch-up programme.
That schedule proved too much to handle for Matsatsantsa which is why they slipped to 14th position, a point ahead of 15th placed Ajax Cape Town with three matches to go.
The Kenyans handled their chaos better. They looked in control and troubled SuperSport with their quick counter.
But the Tshwane side responded well in the second half to put on a brave fight. Taking the lead and Gor Mahia’s quick equaliser woke SuperSport from their slumber.
They took the match to the depleted Kenyan side, muscling their way back through the boot of Thabo Mnyamane with his third goal of the tournament.
That resulted in an exciting and nervous finish for the home crowd as SuperSport needed another goal to win the tie, since the Kenyans scored a vital away goal which took them to the group stage of the Confederation Cup after their demotion from the Caf Champions League.
SuperSport now have to focus on their fight for survival with their African sojourn now over.