Much has been said of Chiefs’ defensive tactics in their 1-0 defeat to Matsatsantsa over the weekend that saw them eliminated from the competition and the extension of their trophy drought.
It came as a surprise after coach Giovanni Solinas had promised attacking intent from his team despite their slight advantage of two away-goals, and Tembo admitted even he was caught off guard.
“Yeah, that’s true. I thought they would be the ones to come out the blocks first, but surprisingly they were a little bit [conservative],” said Tembo.
“It was also mental because they had a two [away-]goal advantage, so I think their approach was that they didn’t want us to score.
“I thought they were going to come out and try to get an early goal, and that’s why our approach was to try and drag it at 0-0 for longer.
“Luckily enough that didn’t happen, and in the second half we had the freedom to try and go forward a little bit more and be adventurous because we had nothing to lose.”
With Amakhosi having proven most threatening with the likes of Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat up front, Tembo also sussed out how to foil the combination play between the former Mamelodi Sundowns duo, and admitted the two holding midfielders suited his own game plan.
“When I first saw Chiefs line-up, I knew they wanted to protect their away-goal advantage because they had two defensive-minded midfielders in Willard [Katsande] and [Wiseman] Meyiwa,” he added.
“That meant [Siphelele] Ntshangase had to push a little bit higher, and we know Billiat is very mobile – he doesn’t really stay wide but plays more of a free role.
“We knew that it would be a bit easy because when Billiat plays closer to Castro, it is very difficult and it worried us – with every high ball they could play combinations even when it’s a flick on of the second ball. They can play one-twos between just the two of them.
“But they looked more spread [on Saturday], so it was easy for us to cover that distance between them. I thought their tactics suited us.”
SuperSport are on course to defend their 2017 MTN8 crown, and will face last year’s runners-up Cape Town City in a repeat of that final.