Kaizer Chiefs’ players talked big during the week about putting up a fight to reduce the two-goal deficit from their 3-1 first-leg defeat against Zesco United in Zambia.
Instead they weakly conceded two more at homeat FNB Stadium on Saturday night, then scored a late consolation in a 2-1 second-leg loss to exit in the Caf Confederation Cup playoff round by a 5-2 aggregate scoreline.
Teddy Akumu in the 10th minute and Jessy Were in the 69th sealed the win for the vastly more polished and experienced Zesco, with Khama Billiat pulling a goal back for Chiefs in the 94th.
Needing a clear home leg victory, it seemed strange that Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp switched from the 3-5-2 formation with attacking wingbacks that has brought Amakhosi goals in all their games this year, opting instead for a more static 4-4-1-1.
Zesco, the losing 2016 Caf Champions League semifinalists against that year’s winners Mamelodi Sundowns, have greater recent continental experience than Chiefs. As in the first leg, it showed.
The Zambian club defended effectively, and took the chances they gained from a counterattack that was effective through the strong running of classy forwards such as Lazarous Kambole and Were.
Chiefs, after the early goal sloppily conceded, never looked overly-keyed up for the fight needed for three goals to take the game to penalties.
With the financial and physical expenses involved in reaching a Confed Cup group stage, and their domestic struggles already this season, perhaps that was not surprising.