19 April 2019

Zimbabwe: Kaitano Tembo's Profile Keeps Rising

KAITANO TEMBO became the first SuperSport United coach to guide the team to victory in the Tshwane Derby in half-a-dozen years as his men beat champions Mamelodi Sundowns 2-0 in a feisty South African Premiership match on Wednesday night.

Matsatsansa moved within shouting distance in the race for the title, and in the process, could have inflicted the knockout blow on the Brazilians' chances of defending their title.

Given the way Sundowns destroyed record African champions Al Ahly in their CAF Champions League quarter-final, there were expectations this was going to be a tough examination of this SuperSport United side.

But Tembo's men reacted to the challenge and powered themselves to a victory which also saw the coach being personally congratulated by Sundowns' billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe after the match.

The Zimbabwean gaffer's profile has been rising this season.

"We had to plan properly and be tactically disciplined throughout the game," Tembo told The Herald.

"Play with no fear and don't give them too much respect. We had to neutralise their strength, which is the speed they have in attack by defending well on one versus one situations and cutting the space behind the defence and be compact, which means our distances had to be proper.

"In attack, we had to take advantage of the spaces they leave on the sides, especially when their fullbacks go forward. We also had to put pressure on their centrebacks whenever we were in possession, be quick on transition and dominate set plays."

Tembo also received a pat on the back from Motsepe, whose huge investment has transformed Sundowns into the dominant team in South Africa in recent years.

"It means a lot," Tembo told Kick-Off.

"It means a lot because it shows that he is someone who appreciates. He could have been upset because his team is also fighting for the league (title), but for him to take his time to come congratulate us is so special.

"It's not done yet (the fight for the league championship).

"There's still a lot of points to play for and anything can happen. We have four games to go; that's 12 points. If we can try to win all of them, who knows where we gonna finish?

"So we keep on fighting."

There are four games still to play for Kaitano's men, and if results go their way and the other teams falter in the championship race, SuperSport United could even end up winning the title race.

They are seven points behind leaders Orlando Pirates, but have a game in hand.

Sundowns slipped into third place, six points behind Pirates, but with a game in hand over the Buccaneers.

"Credit to SuperSport, they were fresher. We played against a well-rested team. But it's not an excuse. We put ourselves in this position," said Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane.

"So, the league let it go to the team that's supposed to win it. Let's try the Champions League and put our energies on that. But you never know how football is. Sometimes the gods can change fortunes around and you still have a chance.

"But it's okay, let the league go where it's supposed to go."

Tembo has transformed SuperSport United this season.

The club finished seventh last season after winning only nine of their 30 league matches, drawing 12 and losing nine, while scoring 28 goals and conceding the same number of goals.

They had 39 points and were 21 points behind champions Sundowns who completed the season with 60 points after winning 18 matches, drawing six and losing as many games, while scoring 49 and conceding 26 goals en-route to their tally of 60 points.

Pirates were second on 55 points.

SuperSport United, under Tembo, have already won more games (12) in the league champion this season, three more than what the club won all season in the last campaign.

They have already scored in 26 games, just one goal short of the number of goals they scored all season in the previous campaign, while they have also reduced the number of losses. They have also conceded less goals in this campaign.

In the 26 matches they have played under Tembo's guidance this season, they have already eclipsed the points tally they harvested all season in the previous campaign.

Right now, they have accumulated 43 points from 26 games, while last season they had only 39 points from 30 matches.

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