CHICKEN Inn coach Joey “Mafero” Antipas has expressed gratitude to the Highlanders and Dynamos supporters who backed his team to a 1-0 victory over South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns in their Caf Champions League preliminary round first leg match at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions went into the match as underdogs, but they produced a brilliant display to step closer to qualification to the next stage.
They know, however, that the job is not done yet as they have to go to Pretoria and finish it off against a star-studded team that could be further strengthened by the return of Zimbabwean Khama Billiat who is nursing a hamstring injury.
Billiat did not feature on Saturday with coach Pitso Mosimane saying there was no need to risk him considering the fixture congestion. The skillful player failed a late fitness test ahead of the match.
But the club revealed yesterday that the Warriors forward was sidelined because of a hamstring injury. They did not specify the extent.
It is also not clear how long Billiat will be sidelined, but according to information gathered online, one can be ruled out for weeks or months if the muscle tear is grade two or three. And if it is a minor injury which could be a pulled muscle, a player can return to fitness in days.
Antipas, however is anticipating the return of Billiat in the return leg, a prospect which he believes will be tough.
“The good thing is that we did not concede at home, but we still expect a tough encounter when we go to South Africa, particularly because Khama will be back,” Antipas said.
“Sundowns is a good side, but when Khama is in there they are even more dangerous. He is their main man. We just have to make a plan for him and make sure that if he plays we are able to snuff him out. But for now we have to enjoy this win and we are indebted to the Highlanders and Dynamos supporters who were behind us on Saturday.”
Antipas said he was proud of his team, but rued missed opportunities which would have made the task easier in the second leg.
“I am very proud of the way the guys played. We stuck to our game plan and it worked for us. We wanted to snuff their suppliers and we did that well. Here we played as a unit and everyone gave 100%. We will be hoping for more of the same in the second leg. Only if we had scored a couple of goals we would have been more comfortable. The problem for us is that in South Africa we will play under the lights and most of our players here have never been exposed to that so we will try and have as many training sessions in the evening.”
Chicken Inn allowed their more fancied opponents to enjoy possession, but were always a threat each time they stole the ball.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is confident that his team can go and turn the tables at home after seeing his team enjoy more of the ball.
“1-0, they (Chicken Inn) deserve it and they scored a great goal. We respect them and we will see in the second leg. If we could control the game here, then we can control the game back home and we need to take our chances. We didn’t create many chances because they played well and played on the break, but 1-0 is okay,” Mosimane said.