EAST LONDON, May 20– SuperSport United FC is through to the Nedbank Cup final after beating a brave Chippa United side 4-2 on penalties at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium near East London on Saturday afternoon. The SuperSport and Bafana Bafana bound coach Stuart Baxter will lead his team into SA football’s premier cup final for the second time in as many seasons.
The bumpy playing surface, which is usually used for rugby matches did not allow for an open passing game, and few chances were created during the 90 minutes of regulation time, plus 30 minutes of extra time.
Two missed penalties by Chippa in the shoot-out, of which one was caused by a brilliant tip over the cross bar from SuperSport keeper Ronwen Williams, led to Chippa’s departure from the lucrative cup tournament. This allowed SuperSport to book their place in the final for the sixth time in the club’s history, having won on four occasions.
Baxter looked for more firepower upfront from his SuperSport players and started the second half with Bradley Grobler upfront in place of Thabo Mnyamane, while Mandla Masango replaced Tebogo Mokoena in midfield. The Scottish mentor, who was at the helm of Kaizer Chiefs, when they beat SuperSport 1-0 in last year’s cup final, the victory, would have breathed a sigh of relief, after Chippa embarrassed SuperSport 3-0 in league action in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday night.
The coach has been cautious as far as his starting line-ups were concerned. While trying to finish in the top four in the Absa Premiership, Baxter has also had to think about the Nedbank Cup campaign as well as the CAF Confederation Cup schedule. The Tshwane-based side travel to Gabon on Monday, for their continental Group D fixture the next day against CF Mounana.
Playing in front of a large crowd in Mdantsane outside East London, Supersport started to show signs of attacking dominance in the final 20 minutes of the match, although Chippa looked dangerous on the counter-attack or in taking advantage of SuperSport errors.
The home side nearly took the lead in the 29th minute, when Sandile Zuke latched on to a SuperSport defensive error and had a shot at goal, but the midfielder’s effort went high and wide of the left hand upright.
The pace of Thuso Phala down the left flank was always a problem for the hosts, with SuperSport having made seven changes to their line-up, following their midweek loss to Chippa.
The Eastern Cape side too, used a strategic approach, clearly with the aim of wearing their more glamourous visitors down as they started the game with star attacker and hat-trick hero from Wednesday. Once introduced in the 57th minute, the hosts looked much more of an attacking unit.
Chippa will now turn their focus to their most important match of the season, when they travel to Bethlehem to face Free State Stars on Saturday. A win or a draw will see them assured of retaining their top flight status, while a loss will leave their fate in the hands of the outcome of the respective matches involving fellow drop zone candidates, Highlands Park and Baroka FC.