SuperSport United were given a serious fright by Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila on Saturday, but in the end just about hung on to a 3-2 victory over the top flight newbies in the MTN8 quarterfinals at Thohoyandou Stadium.
Against a Limpopo side that was only able to put three substitutes on their bench, because of problems registering new signings in a rather shambolic build up to the new season, Kaitano Tembo’s side appeared to be strolling to victory as they went 3-0 up in the first half.
A superb goal on the stroke of half time from Botswanan Mogakolodi Ngele, however, gave TTM hope, and the former Platinum Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns man added another about ten minutes after the break, to set up a tense finish.
In the end, Lerato Lamola’s effort in stoppage time, deflected wide by Ronwen Williams, proved to be the final chance for Joel Masutha’s side, and it is Tembo’s men that will take their place in the semifinals of a competition they won last year.
Before kick off, the talk was all about TTM’s issues, which saw them only able to put a goalkeeper, Washington Arubi and two outfield players, Edgar Manaka and Thabo Mnyamane on the bench, because of a raft of new signings that had only come in this week.
Justin Shonga did make it into the line-up, after leaving Orlando Pirates, as did on-loan defender Nicholus Lukhubeni.
SuperSport were able to field a far more stable team, with Iqraam Rayners the only addition to their starting line-up from last season.
It was hard to know if TTM’s defenders had trained together at all in the early stages, as SuperSport cut them to ribbons. In the 8th minute, Zambian Ghampani Lungu got down the wing and sent in a low cross that Bradley Grobler fired in to open his account for the season.
Rayners then missed an absolute sitter, firing over at the far post when it looked easier to tap into an empty net, but SuperSport’s new man made up for it in the 28th minute, as he fired a brilliant effort past Brighton Mhlongo into the top corner.
And it looked like game over a few minutes later, as Lungu found space in the area and put a fine low shot past Mhlongo.
Ngele, however, had other ideas, and TTM will take encouragement from the spirit shown by their depleted side, especially in the second half, as they took the game to SuperSport, with Shonga, Ngele and Lerato Lamola looking especially threatening.