Khama Billiat. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Khama Billiat. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Despite Khama Billiat being on target, Kaizer Chiefs succumbed to a 3-1 defeat against Zesco United at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Zambia on Sunday to leave their participation in the 2018-19 African Confederation Cup hanging by a thread.

Kenyan forward Jesse Were scored a brace for the home side in the first leg of the play-off-round tie‚ and Lazarous Kambole got the other, leaving Chiefs with a mountain to climb in Saturday’s second leg if they are to reach the pool stages.

Chiefs’ only previous visit to Zambia for a competitive fixture was in 2000 when they were ousted from the Caf Cup by Nchanga Rangers‚ who won 2-0 in Soweto and later held the AmaKhosi to a goalless draw.

Coach Ernst Middendorp kept faith with Virgil Vries in goal‚ with a backline that included Teenage Hadebe‚ Daniel Cardoso‚ Mario Booysen and Godfrey Walusimbi.

Willard Katsande was restored to the midfield after missing the 2-0 premiership victory over BidVest Wits in midweek. Were had a big chance early on to give Zesco the lead but put his effort wide and Katsande could not steer his header on target as he rose above the home defence.

John Ching’andu was bossing the midfield in the first half and should have scored the opener after being teed-up by Were‚ but he too missed the target. Central defender Misheck Chaila did well to block an effort from Billiat‚ before Hadebe headed over the bar.

The home side’s breakthrough came in the 24th minute when Kambole latched onto a pass from Rahim Ousumanu and supplied a neat finish. Zesco bagged a second six minutes later when Were
converted a penalty after Hadebe had hauled down the live-wire forward in the box and Zimbabwe referee Norman Matemera pointed to the spot.

Chiefs pulled a goal back before half-time though as‚ shortly after striking the post‚ Billiat found the back of the net.

Middendorp made a change at the break‚ bringing on Dumisani Zuma for Walusimbi‚ and they were almost level when Leonardo Castro’s rocket shot was pushed for a corner by Zesco goalkeeper Jacob Banda.

But Chiefs were still vulnerable at the back and after more good work from Kambole‚ he set up Were for his second goal on 53 minutes.

Billiat thought he had a brace midway through the second half but his effort was ruled out for offside as Zuma’s afternoon lasted just 23 minutes when he was withdrawn for Bernard Parker. It almost got worse for Chiefs when Kambole missed a simple chance‚ while Billiat was again unlucky at the other end as his shot was saved.

Chiefs are next in action on Wednesday in a Premiership clash against AmaZulu‚ while the return fixture against Zesco will be played at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night.