SuperSport United became the first team to earn their spot in the MTN8 semi-finals as they beat Tshakuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) 3-2 at a scorching hot Thohoyandou Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
First-half goals by Bradley Grobler, Iqraam Rayners and Ghampani Lungu had seemingly put the visitors on course for an easy win. But a brace from Botswana international Mogakolodi Ngele got the rookie side right back into the game and in the end SuperSport were made to sweat for the victory.
After a couple of shaky early moments in defence for the hosts, it was in fact the Limpopo side who had the first opportunity of the match in the fifth minute when Lerato Lamola’s attempted pass deflected into the path of Celimpilo Ngema, whose angled shot flashed narrowly past the far post.
From then on though, things quickly went downhill for the club which bought their way into the top flight by purchasing Bidvest Wits’ franchise.
The first setback came in the eighth minute when Lungu raced down the right-hand flank and delivered a pin-point cross for Grobler, who had the simple job of turning the ball home from a few metres out.
There should have been another goal for the Tshwane club eight minutes later when Thamsanqa Gabuza crossed for Rayners, but from just two metres out the striker lifted his shot over the goal.
Rayners was, however, able to make amends in fine style not long afterwards when he latched onto a fine cross-field pass from Lungu, before curling a beauty into the top corner from just outside the box; 2-0 after 27 minutes.
Lungu then followed up his two assists with a goal of his own six minutes later, sweeping a low shot inside the far post after a pass from Jamie Webber on the edge of the box.
Things were looking pretty dire for TTM at that stage but they did manage to regroup and after Justin Shonga had missed a good chance, Ngele pulled one back for the hosts in the 44th minute with a blistering shot from 25-yards out which left goalkeeper Ronwen Williams rooted to the spot.
Following the restart, Matsatsantsa spurned two great chances to add to their lead as Lungu failed to beat goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo from six metres out with a header before Teboho Mokoena missed from in front of goal.
Those misses proved to be costly as TTTM pulled back another goal when Ngele stole in with a near-post header from Shonga’s 56th-minute corner.
Now with their tails up, the Limpopo side kept coming at SuperSport and had a goal disallowed when Shonga strayed marginally offside before Lamola had a couple of efforts blocked.
More followed as Williams made a smart reaction save to deny Shonga and then Lehlohonolo Nonyane went close with a looping header.
Williams also had to make a crucial late intervention as he got just enough of his foot on Lamola’s parting shot after he had breached the SuperSport defence in the 91st minute.