Sundowns, SuperSport ready for R8m clash
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Trott Moloto and his SuperSport United counterpart, Gavin Hunt, agree that “whoever wants it most will win” in what promises to be a titanic MTN 8 second-leg semifinal showdown at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium on Saturday night.
Downs edged out their city neighbours and Premier Soccer League champions United 2-1 in a cracking first-leg semifinal played at the same venue on Sunday. Both teams use the Super Stadium as their home ground.
The Brazilians go into the return “away” leg a goal ahead, but United have the comfort of scoring an away goal, which will count double should United win the second leg 1-0.
But Moloto squashed any thoughts of defending their slender lead or that United could beat the new-look Brazilians 1-0.
Said Moloto: “One thing for sure is there is no way Sundowns will leave the field after Saturday night without scoring. It just won’t happen, so United can forget about their away goal giving them any comfort.”
The coach has more worries ahead of a showdown in which the eventual winners will meet either Kaizer Chiefs or Moroka Swallows in the final for a whopping winner-takes-all R8-million.
Moloto had to change his tactics at the last minute when his new star striker Katlego Mphela twisted a thigh muscle in the warm-up for Sunday’s game. Then his other new star signing, striker-cum-winger Sibusiso Zuma, was sent off by referee Daniel Bennett for a second bookable offence in the dying seconds of injury time.
Also, attacking midfielder Surprise Moriri, who scored the winner against United and who can double up as a second striker, left on Sunday night for London to join his Bafana Bafana teammates for the friendly international against Australia at the Loftus Road Stadium on Tuesday. He will only return to Downs on Thursday.
Zuma left for London with Moriri, but Mphela—who was also selected to travel and play for his country against the Socceroos—stayed behind.
Said Moloto: “The injury is more serious than we thought. It will take weeks to heal. I feel sorry for him as he was looking forward to playing for Bafana.” But the injury meant Moloto had to make a quick decision on his replacement against United and he got it right when he decided to draft in Lerato Chabangu.
Said the coach: “The move could have backfired. It is not easy telling a player he is on the bench and the next minute he is playing. But to his credit, Chabangu played like a true professional and showed me he is up there for the challenge and is hungry to play.”
Moloto hinted the dilemma could force him to fast-track the fitness programme of his Zambian and former Chiefs hero Collins Mbesuma.
It was the worst sort of debut for Zuma. The 32-year-old veteran, who was signed from German outfit Arminia Bielefeld in the off-season, was sent off in the dying seconds and faces a two-match suspension. He misses Saturday’s return leg and the final should Downs beat United over the two legs.
Moloto praised Chilean midfielder Jorge Acuna who scored Downs’ opening goal, and the Brazilians coach sportingly lavished praise on United’s lone scorer Brent Carelse who was transferred in the off-season from Downs.
Said Moloto: “Acuna is a top-class midfielder while I always knew Carelse was class. He took his goal well and inflicted a little pain on us with it.”
United coach Gavin Hunt admitted his side had not played to their true potential. “We did not play as well as we can. It is still anybody’s game and we’re far from out if it. We are still in the game and we will be looking at a 1-0 win in the second leg.”
He said that his defenders were 5m behind Downs’ attack and that the two goals his side gave away were patchy.
“But I told my players we must not panic. We know we will do better in the second leg. We were well on top in the second half and that gives me a lot of confidence. However, I am sure that with the strikers we have we will qualify for the final.”
Both coaches agreed that Saturday night’s showdown will be a whole new ball game.
Chiefs, who beat Swallows 2-0 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, face the Birds in the second-leg semifinal at Olympia Park on Sunday at 3pm.—Sapa