COACH Kaitano Tembo showered praises on his charges as SuperSport United showed great character to eliminate Orlando Pirates in their Soweto backyard from the MTN8 on a glorious Saturday for Zimbabweans in South Africa.
Tembo is the centre of focus after finally being promoted to take the hot seat at SuperSport United where he is the only Zimbabwean coach in charge of a South African Premiership soccer side.
He started his spell in charge with a defeat at Cape Town City in a league match, but turned it around with victory over Amazulu in the next match before a penalty shoot-out win over Pirates in the MTN8 competition.
Zimbabwean strikers — Khama Billiat and Evans Rusike — also warmed-up for next month’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo Brazzaville when they both scored as they helped Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United reach the semi-finals of the MTN8 on Saturday.
Both Billiat and Rusike are expected to be in Warriors’ coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s squad for the 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against Congo Brazzaville and they seem to have hit form at the right time ahead of this crucial tie after scoring for their respective South African Premiership sides.
Billiat scored his first goal for his new South African side Kaizer Chiefs in their 3-0 win over Free State Stars, while Rusike showed why he is rated as one of the best strikers Down South as he fired in SuperSport United’s second goal in their 2-2 draw with Orlando Pirates who they then sent crashing out of the tournament 4-3 on penalties.
After having not found the target for Chiefs in their first two league matches of the season last week, Billiat reminded the Amakhosi faithful what he is made of when he grabbed their side’s third goal in their defeat of a lacklustre Free State Stars in Saturday’s quarter-final of the MTN8 at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
The gifted Zimbabwean’s goal came during injury time when he ran on to an incisive through ball by Leonardo Castro before sliding a low strike under Stars’ goalminder Badra Ali Sangare to seal victory for the Glamour Boys.
Rusike was also instrumental in helping SuperSport United, now under the guidance of fellow Zimbabwean coach Tembo, reach the last four of the MTN8 after showing sheer grit and determination to beat Orlando Pirates 4-3 on penalties after the two teams were deadlocked 2-2 after extra-time at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Both sides came into the encounter having registered their first wins of the South African Absa Premiership during the week.
The Buccaneers enjoyed a lot of possession in the early stages and they went ahead on 14 minutes when Zambian Augustine Mulenga combined with Justin Shonga before poking the ball past Ronwen Williams.
SuperSport nearly restored parity on 27 minutes when Teboho Mokoena shaved the outside of the upright with a stunning strike from distance.
However, the visitors were not to be denied on 34 minutes as Dean Furman combined with Rusike before firing a superb left-footed strike past Siyabonga Mpontshane.
Both sides went in search of more goals in the closing stages of the half, but they were unable to create chances and went into the break level at 1-1.
Rusike then gave United the lead four minutes into the second half with a cracking low strike from close range after being gifted a lot of space.
Gladwin Shitolo equalised for Bucs on the hour-mark, deflecting in a strike by Xolani Mlambo into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
The match was in the balance in the last 20 minutes with end to end attacks as both sides were looking for the winner.
Vincent Pule had a glorious chance to seal the match for Bucs five minutes before time, but he got under a half-volley and his effort sailed over the bar.
Ultimately there could not be a winner in regulation time and the match went into extra-time.
Matsatsantsa were dangerous on counter-attacks midway through the first stanza of extra-time as Pirates were pushing too high.
The two sides could not be separated in the first half of extra-time.
Pirates were awarded a penalty seven minutes before time with Mulenga taking the spot-kick but SuperSport goalkeeper Williams made the save.
The two sides could not be separated as a result and the match went into penalty shoot-out, where the visitors went on to win.
Tembo was proud of his charges after they overcame Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 quarter-finals.
“I think, I’m really proud of the guys. I think they left everything out there. It wasn’t an easy game. Pirates controlled most of the possession,” Tembo told SuperSport TV.
“But we also tried to control where we wanted to have the ball and when we got to certain areas, we were putting pressure on them to try and get them on the transition.
“I think we had a couple of breaks, where we could’ve done better in terms of decision-making, choosing the right options as well. But I’m happy with the performance. I’m proud of the guys.
“I think we’re improving gradually, which is key because we just come off pre-season and this is our third game in seven days and we played one 120 minutes.
“So it’s not easy. But I’m happy I’m proud of the guys.”
Meanwhile, in their match against Free State Stars, at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Kaizer Chiefs were largely on top and took the lead in the first half through Dumisani Zuma. Castro added a second after the break before a late strike from Billiat completed the scoring.
A serious injury to Joseph Molangoane was a negative to both teams involved.
Chiefs came out full of positivity following their defeat to Bidvest Wits during their previous game in the Premiership.
Inside 15 minutes the lively Billiat attempted to open the scoring from a free-kick situation.
However, the Zimbabwe international sent his set-piece off target in the 13th minute.
But the Glamour Boys hit the front in the 20th minute following a fine team move which Stars could do little to deal with.
After a switch to the right found Ramahlwe Mphahlele in space, the right-back played in Molangoane in the box.
The attacking midfielder showed great skill to shake off his defender before playing in Zuma, who side-footed home with remarkable composure near the penalty spot.
Molangoane was having a fine first half and nearly added a second following a smart set-up by veteran defensive midfielder Willard Katsande from Zimbabwe.
Centre-back Daniel Cardoso had two chances before the break but fired wide on the volley with the goal gaping, before being perhaps unfortunate to see a header drift wide of the post.
After the interval, Stars were not their usual fluent self and it would be Chiefs who added to their advantage.
Castro raced into a goal-scoring position after a superb reverse pass by the influential Siphelele Ntshangase.
The Colombian star showed great composure as he scooped a finish over the on-rushing Badra Ali Sangare.
The contest was soured when Molangoane appeared to break his ankle in a 50-50 challenge. With that said, striker Judas Moseamedi nearly pulled one back when his diving header was parried stunningly by an alert Virgil Vries. That was before Billiat rounded off the victory for Chiefs in added time with a cool finish, granting the Amakhosi its first semi-final entry since 2015 whilst avenging last season’s Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat. — Sports Reporter/Sport24