CHICKEN Inn’s African Safari may have come to an abrupt end on Saturday following their loss to Mamelodi Sundowns at Pretoria’s Lucas Moripe Stadium, but their impressive display away from home earned them a lot of respect down south.
BY SAKHELENI NXUMALO
Chicken Inn lost 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate after their 1-nil home win two weeks earlier.
The Gamecocks held their own against the Absa Premiership giants and with a little bit of luck could have progressed to the next stage at the expense of their star-studded opponents.
Michelle Katsvairo, the scorer of Chicken Inn’s goal in the first leg encounter, was left cursing his luck after his thunderous strike cannoned off the upright just before halftime.
Had that effort found the target, Chicken Inn would have cancelled out giant defender Wayne Arendse’s 35th minute opener to level matters on the night and not only give the Gamecocks an important away goal, but a 2-1 aggregate lead as well.
Even Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane admitted that the Zimbabwean champions had been worthy opponents.
“But credit to this team [Chicken Inn]. This team is a very good team. These are not fishermen from an island, this is serious football team and they gave us a hard time,” Mosimane said.
Just like in the reverse fixture two weeks ago at Barbourfields, Chicken Inn played well on the break, but lacked that decisive pass to make their counter attack effective.
The Gamecocks’ willingness to venture forward and utilise the counter attack unsettled the home side on a number of occasions, but with a little bit of urgency on their part the outcome of the match could have been different.
At times Chicken Inn over-elaborated their build-up so much so that the strikers ended up straying offside.
Chicken Inn rightback Passmore Bernard had a forgettable afternoon as he was responsible for both set pieces that led to Sundowns twice finding the target.
The former Motor Action man first conceded the free kick that led to the opener on 35 minutes and was then adjudged to have brought down fellow countryman Khama Billiat in the penalty box in injury time by Malagasy referee Andofetra Avombitara Rakotojaona.
Sundowns substitute Katlego Mashego converted the spot kick to send his side to the next stage of the competition where they will meet AC Leopards of Congo.
The penalty decision left the Gamecocks contingent fuming with head coach Joey Antipas labelling it dodgy in his post-match interview.
Chicken Inn chairman Lifa Ncube also not impressed with the decision too.
“That was not a penalty at all and the referee should not have given it,” Ncube said.
The Gamecocks were backed by a vociferous crowd comprising Zimbabweans based in South Africa and local fans that travelled to Pretoria.
Chicken Inn had their fans believing by stringing some good passes early into the match giving hope that they could win the tie.