Azubuike Egwuekwe’s late header cancelled out Aubrey Ngoma’s first half strike, giving SuperSport United a point in Nelspruit.
City too were looking for some salvation after they were defeated by Maritzburg United in midweek. This led coach Benni McCarthy to make five changes to his starting XI, most notably Victor Obinna returned to the squad alongside playmaker Aubrey Ngoma.
Meanwhile, Matsatsantsa were still feeling the effects of their congested schedule due to their continental exploits this year, and coach Eric Tinkler also rang the changes, bringing in the likes of Sifiso Myeni and Jeremy Brockie and resting his more experienced campaigners.
As expected the clash at the Mbombela Stadium got off to a tentative start with neither side able to assert their authority during the opening stages. SuperSport’s Teboho Mokoena had an early chance from outside the area, but his audacious effort flew well over the Citizens’ goal.
With the half progressing, SuperSport were beginning to come out of their shell. Thuso Phala arguably created SuperSport’s best chance of the half, but the pass was slightly overcooked for Brockie to latch onto with only the goalkeeper to beat.
City on the other hand, were let down by their final ball as they failed to trouble Reyaad Pieterse during the opening minutes. That was until just after the 20-minute mark when Mpho Matsi unleashed a ferocious strike which flew just wide off target.
With half an hour played, Pieterse was certainly the busier of the two keepers. The 25-year-old had to be at his very best as he denied Obinna in a one on one situation after the Nigerian was superbly played through on goal by Ngoma. At the other end SuperSport could have easily been ahead, but Sage Stephens came up with the goods to deny Phala.
With the half-time whistle looming, Pieterse would again be called into action as he made a vital save to deny Sibusiso Masina, diving to his left. But with a minute remaining in the half, the SuperSport keeper’s resistance would eventually be breached as Ngoma calmly slotted the ball into the net following an assist from Craig Martin, giving coach Tinkler much to ponder about during the half-time break.
The resumption of the second half saw the home side show a little more assertiveness and looked to take the game to the Mother City-based outfit. Mokoena had yet another effort from way outside the City box, but his tame effort was easily gathered by Stephens.
In a substitution which left many puzzled, the SuperSport mentor replaced Jeremy Brockie with the experienced Reneilwe Letsholonyane in the 55th minute. The move meant that Bradley Grobler would lead the line with the former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder adding that creative spark just behind the attack.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Myeni had a good chance to draw SuperSport level but his shot lacked the desired impact as it failed to trouble the City keeper. As the game entered its final few minutes chances dried up and the encounter was a cagier affair.
However, with time running out SuperSport threw men forward in an effort to find the elusive equaliser, and their pressure eventually paid off in stoppage time as Egwuekwe rose highest to head home, giving SuperSport a solitary point.