A valiant SuperSport United beat Egypt’s renowned Al Ahly 1-0 in the second-leg Caf Champions League game at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday night – but still found themselves eliminated from the competition through a 2-1 aggregate defeat.
It was a continuation of the dismal record of South African teams in the competition over the past decade, but the defending PSL champions, who have had a harrowing last few months in local competitions, emerged with much credit from one of their best performances of the season.
And while Al Ahly might no longer be the powerhouse that earned them the title of Africa’s “Team of the Century”, it was no mean feat for United to dominate play territorially and have the lion’s share of opportunities.
Yet, even after Jabu Maluleke’s glorious free-kick goal in the 28th minute from the edge of the penalty area, the prospect of SuperSport turning the tables always appeared a long shot against a side who seemed content to hold on to their advantage.
“We had the chances to have made up the two-goal deficit from the first leg, and even taken an overall lead,” said SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt.
“Missing gilt-edged opportunities has been a trademark of our play this season.
“But I’m proud of the way the team played and they were never over-awed by the reputation of the opposition.”
With Al Ahly employing a tight, largely defensive approach, it was not until midway through the second period that Rowen Fernandez was called on to make his first telling save of the game.
In contrast, SuperSport hit the woodwork twice and appealed in vain for a penalty in the closing minutes, but ultimately it proved a bridge too far for the the three-times PSL champions against a line-up smattered with Egyptian internationals.