For a side that entered the competition through the backdoor, SuperSport United made the most of the opportunity towards the defence of their MTN8 crown with a 4-3 penalty win over Orlando Pirates on Saturday night.
James Keene buried the decisive kick that sent his side into the semifinals after Innocent Maela and Thembinkosi Lorch missed for Pirates in a dramatic penalty shootout.
While Matsatsantsa a Pitori rode on their luck, the penalties were a cruel way of eliminating Pirates who had all the chances to seal the game in 90 minutes, and later in extra-time, when the two sides were tied at 2-2.
With their victory, SuperSport continued their bogey over the Buccaneers who have struggled to beat the Tshwane side since 2015.
It was only through persistence that coach Kaitano Tembo’s team were able to bounce back from a goal down early in the game and went ahead almost immediately after the halftime break.
After being pressed against the ropes for most of the opening half, it took a moment of individual brilliance for SuperSport to bypass the Pirates defence that was mostly relieved of any pressure by the fluidity of their midfield.
When they eventually got a sniff at Pirates goal, it was against the run of play.
Midfielder Teboho Mokoena tested the waters with a long-range shot that went inches wide and Bucs goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane could not stop a Dean Furman scorcher in a follow-up attempt.
The tables turned in the second half when Evans Rusike pounced, but his 47th minute strike was cancelled out by a rather fortuitous effort when Gladwin Shitolo deflected teammate Xola
Mlambo’s shot past Ronwen Williams in the visitors’ goal.
The two sides came into the game with their tails up having recorded narrow league wins midweek, but Matsatsantsa a Pitori left Soweto with their heads held high after putting up a fight in arguably the best quarterfinal of Saturday’s matches.
Both sides also came to the game with several alterations to their line-ups from their midweek assignment.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic handed debuts to Linda Mntambo and Ben Motshwari in midfield, while Augustine Mulenga returned to partner Justin Shonga in attack.
To go with the Zambian duo upfront was what the doctor ordered as it was Mulenga who initiated the move that he duly finished off as the hosts went ahead 15 minutes into the encounter.
At this point Pirates had been knocking relentlessly on the door with Motshwari and Mntambo central to most of the hosts’ build ups.
Pirates’ new signing, Vincent Pule, had a chance to win it but he sent his volley wide much to the disappointment of the Ghost and Mulenga also missed from the spot in the second half of extra time.
After this display, SuperSport will surely fancy their chances of emulating Pirates as the only side to have won the lucrative top-eight competition back-to-back under the MTN banner.
The former league champions found their way into the competition as one of the Premiership teams that benefitted from the Tendai Ndoro registration saga that saw the reallocation of positions on the final Absa Premeirship standings.
This after Ajax Cape Town were docked points for using Ndoro when he was not eligible to play.
With their triumph, SuperSport joined Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns in the semifinals of this year’s MTN8.
Maritzburg United will face Cape Town City in the last quarterfinal on Sunday.
Pirates-SuperSport penalty shootout sequence:
Pirates: Happy Jele (scored); Innocent Maela (saved); Thembinkosi Lorch (missed); Augustine Mulenga (scored); Gladwin Shitolo (scored)
SuperSport: Dean Furman (scored); Fagrie Lakay (missed); Reneilwe Letsholonyane (scored); Teboho Mokoena (scored); James Keene (scored)