BULAWAYO - Chicken Inn brew a shocker to beat highly-rated South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in the first leg of the African Champions League preliminary round clash on Saturday.
A solitary goal from impressive striker Mitchell Katsvairo after 36 minutes was enough to give the Zimbabwean champions the edge going into the second leg in two weeks’ time in Tshwane.
EYES ON THE BALL: Chicken Inn forward Edmore Chirambadare, right, beats Mamelodi Sundowns' Siyanda Zwane during Saturday's match at Barbourfields Stadium. Pic: Antony Zinyange.
It was a sweet victory for the Gamecocks since it was their first ever competitive match in African continental football.
The icing on the cake is the fact that Sundowns are currently one of the most in-form teams in Africa as they had been on a 19-match unbeaten run in all competitions back in South Africa.
Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas could not believe his luck after the match as his side had pulled off a big upset.
“To tell you the truth; we went to try and play for a nil-nil draw but we managed to go one-nil up against a tough opponent like Sundowns,” said Antipas.
“My boys maintained the tactical discipline that we wanted. We gave them all the possession but we closed them down in critical areas and the boys really put up a good show.
“It was a good win for us. We played with one striker and five midfielders across and we dropped deep so well.”
Antipas added: “In defence we were solid and we didn’t give anything away. We told our boys that you need to be heroes and today (yestrday) we are heroes.”
The Brazilians’ coach Pitso Mosimane admitted his side had come up against a tough opponent.
“We failed to catch the rhythm,” Mosimane said. “It was difficult for us we didn’t have the energy to up it up. The difficult thing is that we have some injuries so I decided to rest my important players like Khama (Billiat) and (Keegan) Dolly because we have a long way to go. 1-0 is not bad.
“Khama could have played but he has a tight hamstring it’s better to keep him, if he had played and we didn’t win and lose him for the other games it was not worth it.”
Mosimane also attributed the loss to the pitch which he said was too heavy for his boys considering that they were a bit tired from last Wednesday’s league clash against Soweto giants Orlando Pirates.
The visitors, who had lost Billiat during the warm-up, started the match on a bright note with Keagan Dolly and Colombian international Leonardo Castro causing a lot of anxious moments for the Gamecocks defence.
To their credit, Chicken Inn maintained their composure and never allowed nerves to show on the big occasion.
As the half grew, the Zimbabwean champions began making inroads into the Sundowns half with new signing Obadiah Tarumbwa and Katsvairo getting behind the visitors’ defence.
Nine minutes before the break, Katsvairo snatched a brilliant goal after he left defender Wayne Arendse for dead on the left flank before charging into the box.
The striker unleashed a scorcher that beat Sundowns goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands.
Two minutes from the breather, Katsvairo could have got his second of the game but he hesitated allowing Sandilands to recover after he had been left unmarked inside the box.
In the second period, Chicken Inn began expressing themselves better as they had the one-goal cushion.
Tarumbwa, Katsvairo and Edmore Chirambadare all had good chances to extend the lead in the second period but they could not make it count.
With a bit of luck they could have got a comfortable lead ahead of the second leg.
Chicken Inn: Chipezeze Elvis, Passmore Bernard, Devine Lunga, Moses Jackson, Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Moses Demera 90m), George Majika (Physwell Madhazi 63m), Danny Phiri, Obadiah Tarumbwa, Mitchell Katsvairo, Lawrence Mhlanga, Edmore Chirambadare
Sundowns: Wayne Sandilands, Thabo Nthete, Tebogo Langerman, Asavela Mbekile (Siyanda Zwane 22m),Wayne Arendse, Keagan Dolly (Mokagolodi Ngele 77m), Teko Modise (Cuthbert Malajila 46m), Leonardo Castro, Mzikayise Mashaba, Themba Zwane and Hlompo Kekana