By NDINAWE SIMPELWE -
ZESCO United coach Zlatko Krmpotić has demanded an improved performance in today’s CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final second leg match against SuperSport United at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
And SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler taunted Zesco that the pressure was on them after failing to score an away goal a week ago in Pretoria.
Speaking in a pre-match conference, Krmpotić said Zesco was a big club which needed to produce big results hence the need to play better today.
After forcing a scoreless draw in Pretoria, Zesco was beaten 3-0 at home in the local league by Lumwana Radiants, a result that did not go down well with the fans.
Krmpotić said, however, that pressure was the name of the game in football regardless of the competition but was quick to say this was good because it made the players work harder.
“Every time, every game, the pressure is there. Maybe this is good because now everybody know how many players we need as a team. I played the second team (against Lumwana). We are in four competitions and it is not easy to play with the same players,” Krmpotić said.
He said the target remained the same of taking Zesco to the final of the CAF Confederation Cup and how the team will play today will determine how far they would go.
But Tinkler used mind games saying the pressure was on Zesco as they will need to avoid conceding a goal at home.
He said had the first leg ended in 1-1 draw, Zesco would have had the advantage but that thanks to poor officiating, the pressure was no longer on SuperSport.
“For us the home game was important to ensure that we keep a clean sheet. The coach (Krmpotić) would agree there should have been two goals (in the first leg), one on either side. That could have put the advantage in their favour because of the away goal.
“But both goals were not allowed. We have come here with a nil-nil result and ultimately, I think this puts the pressure back on them. We have got to come here, look to score and change the tide,” Tinkler said.
Both coaches said they had a clean bill of health regarding injuries though there was a late fitness check on midfielder Misheck Chaila for Zesco.
The home side will also be happy with the return of two key players, striker Jackson Mwanza who was out injured as well as midfielder Anthony Akumu who was suspended for the match.
After the goalless draw in the first leg in Pretoria which puts SuperSport on an advantage, Zesco will be forced to attack and also avoid conceding in order to get an outright victory.
Krmpotić rested key players on Tuesday during the 3-0 league defeat to Lumwana Radiants and will hope his main players will be fresh for this match.
Jacob Banda takes the nod to be in goal with Fackson Kapumbu and Simon Silwimba marshalling the left and right backs respectively.
The coach will need to decide who will partner David Owino Odhiambo in central defense with both Kondwani Mtonga and Ben Adan Banh available with the former ready to be deployed in the defensive midfield role with Misheck Chaila.
In attack Krmpotić will rely on Jesse Were and back-in-squad Mwanza for goals but he will need an improved performance form attacking midfielders Dave Daka and John Ching’andu who were a shadow of themselves in the first leg.
Tinkler will bank on the team’s away form in the competition where out of the six matches, they have lost just once though most of those have ended in draws with only one win registered.
A scoring draw will be enough for SuperSport but that need to push for a goal is what could expose them to Zesco attacks.
The winner of the two legged tie will face the winner in the other quarter final involving defending champions TP Mazembe and Al Hilal Obayed.