SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt saw his hopes of an African Champions League showdown with mighty Egyptian outfit Al-Ahly stay on track Sunday after a 2-0 win over Matlama of Lesotho. The South Africans went ahead on 59 minutes through a Jabulani Maluleke header and a close-range shot from Tebogo Langerman sealed a victory that should see the 'Swanky Boys', so-called because of their highly-paid squad, through to the last-32 phase.
"It would be a wonderful experience for my players to meet a side that has won the competition a record six times," said Hunt, as he looked forward to the return match on 13 February at the Maseru national stadium in the tiny mountain kingdom. "I would relish the challenge of facing Ahly. A tie against Ahly is a huge incentive to eliminate Matlama."
Ahly have a bye into the second round while Cairo neighours Zamalek sounded an early warning of their intentions by thumping Ulinzi Stars 4-0 in Kenya as political turmoil engulfs the most populous Arab nation.
But Hunt was unhappy with the showing of an experimental team in an often scrappy match against spirited but limited Matlama before a small crowd at sun-drenched Peter Mokaba Stadium in the northern city of Polokwane.
"This was a poor performance as we should have won by four or five goals. There was a lack of urgency and determination and some players let me down," said the coach who led SuperSport to three consecutive South African titles.
Stamina-sapping heat contributed to the slow pace and many passes went astray and scoring chances were wasted before unmarked Maluleke nodded a Langerman cross past Liteboho Mokesi. Another cross from the left led to the second goal as Langerman controlled the ball, moved across the goalmouth and unleashed a low shot into the corner of the net.
It was mixed afternoon for southern Africa clubs with Motor Action of Zimbabwe suffering a shock 1-0 home loss to CNaPS Sports from Madagascar while Young Buffaloes of Swaziland won 3-0 against St Michel United of Seychelles. Rajoarinana Deanny struck a minute into the second half to bring CNaPS success in Harare while Vusi Thumbatha, Ndoda Mthethwa and Sibusiso Dlamini were on target for Buffaloes near Mbabane.
There were no goals in the matches between ASFAN of Niger and JC Abidjan of Côte D'Ivoire in Niamey and Elan Club Mitsoudje of Comoros Islands and Simba of Tanzania in Moroni. Defending champions TP Mazembe from Congo DR were among nine clubs who received byes into the second round of a competition worth $1.5m to the winners plus a place in the FIFA Club World Cup.