Gamecocks crowned champs

BULAWAYO – Chicken Inn were in seventh heaven last night after they swept past Harare City to win the Castle Lager premiership title, with a game to spare.

The Gamecocks won at their beloved Luveve Stadium and ended Dynamos’ quest for an unprecedented fifth straight title while restoring a modicum of excitement in the league in which, for four straight years, it had been reduced to a one-team affair.

Dynamos won the league four times in a row under Calisto Pasuwa and their surrender of the title coincided with their change of coaches — twice — in a season which promised big things but ended with missing a passage into the book of ‘immortals’.

Chicken Inn, under the tutelage of Joey Antipas, are worthy winners as they were consistent in the first half of the season.

Antipas used his vast experience to negotiate the turbulence which the Gamecocks hit during the run-in.

A dour draw to WhaWha, a frustrating stalemate against Tsholotsho, sandwiched by another share of spoils against nearest rivals — FC Platinum — meant the Gamecocks were now looking behind their shoulders as the race entered the home stretch.

Antipas had been in that situation before — with Dynamos breathing heavily down Motor Action — the year in which the Mighty Bulls won the title.

Pundits expected the Gamecocks to struggle with nerves, especially considering that FC Platinum and Dynamos — both teams with an outside chance — were playing at home.

But Chicken Inn turned up yesterday and dismissed the Sunshine Boys with a performance that was worth the three points and the championship.

Needing nothing short of a victory with second- placed FC Platinum  breathing down their neck, the Antipas-coached side did collect the much-needed maximum points that saw them attaining a total of 58.

Antipas could not hide his joy yesterday as the whole Chicken Inn family from players, management, technical team turned the stadium into a celebration zone after the match.

“I am very chuffed by the performance today,” he said. “Destiny was in our hands and we had to take the bull by its horns. Hard work, team spirit and togetherness was excellent and it made us win the championship,” he said in his post-match interview after learning that FC Platinum had been held at home by CAPS United.

But the Gamecocks almost got off to a disastrous start but were let off in the third minute by Harare City striker Francisco Zekumbawire who failed to score in front  a yawning goal after having made good work of beating goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze. The home side upped the tempo and seized control and took the lead on 13 minutes when hard-running winger George Majika’s cross eluded everyone and sailed into the nets with City’s goalkeeper  Maxwell Nyamupanedengu badly positioned.

Driven by the championship spirit, the Gamecocks added another goal five minutes later through Tafadzwa Kutinyu.

Edmore Chirambadare sent in an inviting cross from the left side of attack, Kutinyu flicked the ball over Nyamupanedengu with his head and followed with a tap in into an empty net. The Gamecocks relaxed and City capitalised — reducing the arrears in the 30th minute through Talent Chawapiwa whose rasping shot beat Chipezeze all systems out. Chipezeze was on hand to deny Zikumbawire after the big striker had made a breakthrough but he was alert as he used his feet to deny City another goal.

The Sunshine Boys pressed hard for an equaliser and at one time it looked like they would get it as their slick passing caused the hosts all of sorts of problems but timely interventions by a solid defence which was well marshalled by Lawrence Mhlanga and Ben Nyahunzvi, kept their strikers at bay.

But fighting spirit and discipline made sure the Gamecocks would get their insurance and championship goal with six minutes left on the clock.

In a sweeping counter attack, Chirambadare got the ball inside the penalty box,  beat his marker and unselfishly set-up  Michelle Katsvairo who beat the advancing Nyamupanedengu to seal the victory for the hosts. Harare City coach Taurai Mangwiro, felt the newly-crowned champions were not deserving of their victory.

“We were our own worst enemies. We missed clear cut chances and we made mistakes that we could have avoided the first two goals.

Even the last goal that we conceded we were careless at the back while we concentrated more on attack.”

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