LOCAL champions Chicken Inn made a mockery of pre-match odds as they dismissed highly fancied Mamelodi Sundowns in a CAF Champions League preliminary round, first leg tie at Barbourfields on Saturday.
Mitchelle Katsvairo scored a 34th minute individual goal, which was described as great by visiting coach Pitso Mosimane, to give the Gamecocks some hope as they head for the return leg in two weeks’ time.
Going into the match on a roll that had seen them stitching together a 19-match unbeaten run Masandawana where the clear favourites but Chicken Inn coach Joey “Mafero” Antipas showed his technical acumen by employing a game plan which suffocated the visitors of space to play.
Mosimane’s day started badly when Warriors attacker Khama Billiat was withdrawn from the starting line-up a few minutes before warm up with a tight hamstring.
Masandawana nonetheless still had the attacking trio of Bafana Bafana’s Keagan Dolly, Leonardo Castro and Teko ‘The Navigator’ Modise available.
But Antipas had done his homework so well that despite Sundowns having a lion’s share of position they never threatened Elvis Chipezeze’s goal.
Lawrence Mhlanga and Moses Jackson stood imperiously at the heart of defence and received adequate cover from captain and reigning soccer star of the year Danny Phiri.
Chicken Inn sought to play on the counter and the striking pair of Edmore Chirambadare and new recruit Obadiah Tarumbwa did not disappoint as they held up the ball well and asked questions of the Sundowns defence each time their team was on the offensive.
Sundown’s defender Asavela Mbekile had a torrid afternoon trying to contain an on fire Chirambadare.
After a cagey opening half an hour Katsvairo scored what turned out to be the winner on 32 minutes.
The lively attacker neatly collected a long ball, dribbled past substitute Siyanda Zwane, charged towards goal and riffled home from a tight angle to give Wayne Sandilands, in goals for Sundowns, no chance.
Chicken Inn continued playing on the break in the second-half and could have doubled the lead six minutes after the breather.
Chirambadare, playing probably his best match as a Gamecock, beat Zwane and sent in a rising shot which was brilliantly tipped over by the goalkeeper.
Botswana referee Kutlerono Lego had some questionable calls which appeared to favor the visitors but the hosts’ resolve would not be broken and they held on for a morale boosting win.Advertisement
Antipas hailed his men for a heroic effort.
“To tell you the truth, we were out to try and play for a nil-nil draw but managed to get one-nil,” he revealed.
“We were up against quality opponents in Sundowns, who are very tough. We gave them all the ball to play but killed them in critical areas.
“I am very proud of the boys, it’s a big win for the team which was down to tactical discipline.”
Sundowns coach Mosimane said his team was below par.
“The game we played on Wednesday (against Orlando Pirates) was too heavy and so we did not have the energy today. We did not have the legs to change the rhythm of the match.
“The difficult thing is we got a few injuries and I decided, no, my important players must come off,” he said.