By Makomborero Mutimukulu in PRETORIA, South Africa
Mamelodi Sundowns . . . . . .(1) 2
Chicken Inn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(0) 0
Zimbabwean champions Chicken Inn were far from being chickens as their debut Caf Champions League campaign ended in a cruel manner here.
The Gamecocks gave their all but goals from centre back Wayne Arendnse and late substitute Katlego Mashego’s last minute penalty knocked the life out of them.
The marauding Khama Billiat won the penalty that decided it after being brought down by Passmore Bernard.
That Billiat was at the centre of everything good for the hosts makes this one the more difficult to swallow.
The boy who grew up in Harare’s Mufakose suburb and was nurtured at the Aces Youth Academy was unplayable especially in the second half.
It was from a Billiat free kick that The Brazilians got their first goal through the head of Arendnse after 34 minutes of play.
He raced through the Chicken Inn defence before being tripped by Bernard in the 91st minute and Malagasy referee Andofetra Avombitana Rakotojaona pointed to the spot.
Mashego kept his calm and slotted the ball under a diving Elvis Chipezeze in the 94th minute.
Joey Antipas was proud of his boys even after the heart breaking defeat but thought the penalty was a bit “dodgy.”
“I will give the boys 100 percent mark for the effort they put in. We had to put in a massive performance to get a result which the boys did.
“But I thought the penalty was a bit dodgy, but that is the nature of the game. I wish Sundowns all the best in their quest for the Champions League glory,” said Antipas.
Mamelodi Sundowns came out guns blazing as Chicken Inn struggled to deal with a pitch that was watered five minutes before kickoff.
As Downs poured forward menacingly, the message from Antipas was for his men to toughen up.
And toughen up they did, contesting well for the second ball.
The 15 minute mark was key, it came along with the scores goal-less and the Gamecocks slowly getting into their groove.
A minute later, Chipezeze did well to parry a Billiat effort for a corner.
The Chicken Inn keeper did well once again to gather a Hlompo Kekana header on 19 minutes.
The Gamecocks’ first corner came after 20 minutes of play as Sundowns dominated the proceedings from the onset.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ persistent pressure finally paid off in the 34th minute when Arendnse headed home.
Coincidentally, it also took Chicken Inn 34 minutes to score through Michelle Katsvairo in the first leg played at Babourfields a fortnight ago.
Three minutes later, Pitso Mosimane was forced to make a substitution, bringing on giant striker Antony Laffour for left back Tebogo Langerman who pulled a hamstring as he sought to unlock the Chicken Inn defence.
The Gamecocks mounted pressure in the last five minutes of the first half and Katsvairo could have found the equalizer on two occasions but the speedy forward fell short.
Edmore Chirambadare displayed some lovely piece of footwork in the 42nd minute, roasting Asavela Mbekile inside the box before squaring the ball to Katsvairo who mistimed the pass.
A minute later, Katsvairo’s stinging shot hit the left upright after he was played on by veteran striker Obadiah Tarumbwa.
Sundowns goalie Dennis Onyango was clearly beaten by Katsvairo’s surprise strike.
It was 1-0 in favour of Sundowns at half time.
Just like they did at the start of the match, Sundowns were quicker off the blocks in the second stanza.
Billiat charged towards goal in Sundowns’ first attack but he was checked by Lawrence Mhlanga before substitute Laffour hit the side net in the 50th minute.
The ever dangerous Billiat hit the upright and Keegan Dolly failed to tap in the rebound after 56 minutes of play as The Brazilians took full control of the proceedings.
Chicken Inn’s Tarumbwa mistimed a lob soon after the hour mark after he had raced onto a through ball from the left by Devine Lunga.
The Gamecocks were always suspect when dealing with set pieces and were nearly punished after 70 minutes of play when Thabo Nthenthe’s header, off a free kick by Dolly, was cleared off the line.
Katsvairo thought he had found the equalizer seven minutes from time but his left foot attempt was punched away by Onyango.
Substitute Moses Demera was a shade slower for the rebound.
Then came the agonizing moment when Bernard upended Billiat right inside injury and Sundowns grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Mamelodi Sundowns: D. Onyango, T. Nthenthe, T. Langerman (A. Laffour 37), A. Mbekile (K. Mashego 89), W. Arendnse, K. Dolly, H. Kekana, L. Castro, B. Soumahoro (T. Zwane 46), M. Mashaba, K. Billiat
Chicken Inn: E. Chipezeze, P. Bernard, L. Mhlanga, M. Jackson, D. Lunga, D. Phiri, T. Kutinyu (T. Goredema 90), P. Madhazi (C. Matawu 50), E. Chirambadare, O. Tarumbwa (M. Demera 79), M. Katsvairo. The Sunday Mail