Chippa chasing early advantage

Chilli Boys ready to ‘fight to death’ to stay in Premier League

Chippa United veteran Andile Mbenyane believes an early goal will be key to a much-needed victory against SuperSport United in their Premier Soccer League fixture at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tonight (7.30pm).

These are desperate times for the Port Elizabethbased side who find themselves in a relegation battle and searching for every point they can muster to rescue their dire situation.

Chippa are second from the bottom on the log with 24 points from 28 matches. They are level on points with last-placed Baroka but are ahead due to a better goal difference.

Although there is immense pressure on the Chilli Boys’ shoulders going into this game, Mbenyane said his teammates were ready to fight to the death.

“There is pressure because SuperSport is a good team and we can’t run away from that. They play good football,” he said. “But we are not afraid of them.

It would be a good thing if we score in the first half and then they chase after us and not do things the other way around, because that will put more pressure on us.

“The only thing we have to do tomorrow is to score goals and to keep the ball and just play our game.” In a desperate move to try and save the team from relegation, Chippa recalled coach Dan Malesela whom they had placed on special leave due to poor results.

Mbenyane said it was all smiles on Monday when the players saw Malesela back at training. “We are happy that coach Dan Malesela is back because he is a good motivator.

“When he came back he just continued from where left. He talked to the players and made them understand the philosophy of the team.

Everyone is smiling in the team and we are enjoying football again,” Mbenyane said. The 29-year-old striker is the longest serving player at Chippa.

To keep the young players’ minds focused, Mbenyene said senior players had spoken to younger players to make them understand the importance of tonight’s game.

“There is a lot of pressure, everybody knows that. But the mood of the players is fine. We just need to win against SuperSport. Also, the other teams are not that far from us in terms of points.

If we get three points in the league game it will give us enough motivation going into the semifinal of the Nedbank Cup,” he said.

“We have been in this position before and things turned out to be OK. It’s not over yet.

“We have pushed them more at training and have made everybody understand how important the team is and what will happen if we lose this game.”

A group of Chippa supporters attended the team’s afternoon training session yesterday to give the players words of support ahead of tonight’s game.

Chippa United Walmer branch secretary Zukile Tshafele said: “Winners are not determined by how many wins they have. They are determined by how many times you stand up from falling and rise again and continue pursuing your goal.

“So we are here to support Chippa United and to tell them that we are behind them no matter what.”

Tonight’s fixture is the Chilli Boys’ last home league match, and as a thank you gesture, the club has made thousands of tickets available to fans to access the stadium for free.

Tickets may be collected at the Chippa United offices today until 2pm. The number of tickets issued free to fans is limited in compliance with the security plan.

ý Meanwhile, with two matches remaining, Baroka FC and Highlands Park go into a relegation dogfight of their own at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane tonight.

The two teams‚ who are staring into the abyss‚ enter this potentially season-defining match with only one point separating them at the bottom of the standings.

Highlands are placed third-from-bottom with 25 points from 28 matches while Baroka are perched at the foot of the table.

Highlands assistant coach Thiery Mabobo said their 1-0 win over Chippa United last week had boosted the club.

“We believe that we will pull through this tough period and the win over Chippa is important because it gives us a cushion when we play Baroka.” – Additional reporting by Mahlatse Mphahlele

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