Masandawana have followed on from Orlando Pirates in reviving South African clubs’ fortunes in continental club football over the past few years. Their run all the way to the Champions League crown last year was nothing short of miraculous, from the moment that AS Vita’s helping hand let them in through the back door.
This year they flirted with disaster, notably against Kampala City Council Authority in the preliminary round, but in the end could leave Casablanca with their heads held high on Saturday after only missing out on another semifinal via the dreaded penalty shootout. At this level of elite African club football the margins are often fine – had Oupa Manyisa’s shot in normal time in Casablanca gone the other side of the post, it could have been so different.
I did, however, find Mosimane’s post-match comments in Morocco a little disingenuous – he went on about offside decisions against his side in Tshwane in the first leg of the quarterfinal, three decisions that apparently meant his side missed out on three goals.
It is the first time I have ever heard of the idea that beating an offside trap guarantees a side a goal. It also smacks of sour grapes from the Sundowns coach, who would surely have been better off showing a little more grace in defeat. You can’t win them all, as they say, and Sundowns have had a very good run in the Champions League.
They will be back next year, and in the meantime might reflect that it will do them some good for their players to focus on the domestic front, and a chance to challenge again for the Absa Premiership title. The distraction of Africa, and the delay in games played certainly contributed to Sundowns’ failure to give Bidvest Wits more of a run for their money last season.
In the meantime, it is left to SuperSport United to carry the flag for South Africa on the continent, after their amazing last-gasp score draw in Zambia on Saturday put them into the Caf Confederation Cup semifinals.
Thuso Phala kept his cool when it mattered in Ndola and Eric Tinkler is again showing his coaching skills.
The former Bafana midfielder was a little bit unlucky to be discarded by Orlando Pirates after taking them to the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup final, and he showed his mettle again last season, winning the Telkom Knockout and putting up a superb league title challenge with Cape Town City.
Already this season, SuperSport are in the MTN8 final, and now into the semis of Caf’s second-tier club competition. One hopes the busy schedule does not catch up with them and it does seem slightly absurd that the first leg of those semifinals are to be played in Tshwane on Saturday, just seven days after the quarterfinals ended.
Matsatsantsa’s squad is likely to be stretched to its limits before Christmas, but if you asked the players, they would no doubt prefer it this way to not winning anything, and having plenty of rest.
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