Kaitano Tembo hailed SA U20 international Keenan Phillips after the defender put in a fearless performance of lion-hearted courage to ensure SuperSport keep a clean sheet against a dangerous Mamelodi Sundowns side in a DStv Premiership clash.
The top-of-the-table Tshwane Derby ended goalless at the Lucas ‘Masterpieces’ Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday afternoon.
Despite having vastly experienced players at his disposal – Bongani Khumalo and Grant Kekana available on the day, Tembo started the derby with a youthful defence made up of Phillips (20), Luke Fleurs (20) and Thatayaone Ditlhokwe (22) along with the veteran Onismor Bhasera.
The defenders certainly showed their worth as they managed to prevent a free-scoring Sundowns outfit from troubling Ronwen Williams with Phillips walking away with the Man of the Match award for his efforts.
“I knew that especially with their wide players [Gaston] Sirino as well as [Themba] Zwane, they play a little bit narrow, so we needed to have a little bit more energy especially after playing on Wednesday,” said Tembo, who is a keen believer in young blood.
“So, we needed to have energy as their full-backs as well, they overload going forward so I think it was a good move for us to play the youngster [Phillips].
“We know he showed his tenacity, he could defend 1v1 and his recovery is very good as well, so I was quite happy with him,” added the SuperSport tactician.
Phillips, who joined SuperSport on a two-year deal at the start of the season from Bidvest Wits, has made nine appearances in all competitions so far this season.
The SA junior international’s job, of course, despite the coach’s praise, is not over as on Wednesday, he and his teammates have to produce the same performance when they come up against AmaZulu at home.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi
all pictures courtesy of SuperSport United