19 November 2017 10:11
Holders TP Mazembe had to dig deep against a very stubborn Supersport United to clinch a hard fought 2-1 victory in the first leg of the final played at the Stade de Mazembe in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday.
Goals by Adama Traore and Daniel Adjei were enough to give the title holders the much-needed advantage heading into the second leg next weekend in Pretoria.
As anticipated, Mazembe were the first to ask questions in the opening minutes when veteran forward, Rainford Kalaba unleashed a dipping effort that would have troubled keeper, Ronwen Williams had it bounced towards the target.
The visitors looked dangerous going forward with Thuso Phala operating on the right. The skilful winger’s cross should have been converted by Clayton Daniels in the 9th minute but his tame effort from a good goal scoring opportunity went straight into Ley Matampi’s hands.
The best chance of the opening half went to Bradley Grobler who did well to connect with a Phala cross but unbelievably skied the ball in front of an empty net to the relief of the home supporters.
The momentum remained with Matsatsantsa who looked sure of getting the opener. A good build up from deep saw Dove Wome sending in a curling shot that found Matampi on his toes who fisted the ball onto the oncoming Phala and had to immediately get up to make the save from a stinging effort of the winger.
Host ‘Les Corbeau’ eventually gained control of the game and almost found the opener in the 17th minute when Ben Malonga found himself one on one with the keeper but his shot came off the upright.
The reigning champions found the much-needed lead thanks to a brilliant striker from Malian-import Traore whose fierce effort made its way through a crowd of players leaving Williams with very limited time to react.
Mazembe’s lead was almost short lived after some questionable defending from a corner kick resulted in a squabble in the box which was eventually cleared off the goal mouth for the hosts to go into the break with the lead.
Supersport immediately levelled matters in the opening minutes of the second stanza after 19-year-old, Sipho Mbule dribbled past his marker to unleash a powerful strike that caught the keeper napping to make it 1-1.
The title holders made a couple of changes to unlock the stubborn defence of the visitors, bringing on the experienced Tresor Mputu and the nippy Solomon Asante.
The change paid dividends as the pace of Asante caused serious problems for Matsatsantsa who struggled containing the skilful forward who was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after being brought down in the box by Dean Furman.
Asante remained a thorn in the Supersport defence and almost reclaimed the lead for Mazembe in the 76th minute but was a split second late in connecting to a Kalaba cross with the keeper in no man’s land.
The precious lead came in the 78th minute after Adjei fired home from the edge of the box from a corner by Mputu to make it 2-1 for the holders.
The remaining minutes of the game saw Supersport coach Eric Tinkler resorting to bringing in more defensive players to bring stability to what seemed to be a collapsing defense with the likes of Mputu and Asante running rampant.
Mazembe will now head to the Lucas Moripe Stadium carrying a tender 2-1 lead and will hope to be the second club after CF Sfaxien to retain Cup next Saturday.
“We put up a good performance in the opening 20 minutes and could have at least gotten a goal in the first half. However, I am not too saddened by the result. I would rather go home with a 2-1 loss than a 0-0 draw because we have a goal advantage. It will not be easy at home but a solid game plan should give us the desired result” said United coach, Eric Tinkler.
Mazembe coach, Phamphile Mihayo who was also a former
captain of the side said they will need to have an even better and stronger game plan in the return leg.
“We wanted to play well and win the game because we are home and needed to be offensive. Going to Pretoria will be difficult and they will pressurise us from the onset but we will have a plan that will give us the desired result. They are a very good side which isn’t easily broken down but we will have a good game plan” said Mihayo.