Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
KHAMA BILLIAT dismissed questions related to his fitness by not only returning to the Kaizer Chiefs starting line-up in Nelspruit last night but also scoring a superb individual goal for Kaizer Chiefs. The Zimbabwe international forward’s fitness, for the 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville next Sunday, was called into question when Amakhosi coach Ernst Middendorp told the South African media last weekend Billiat had been injured.
This followed the German coach’s decision to bring out Billiat at half-time in that match.
That sparked a wave of speculation the Warriors star, who is key to the team’s quest for a second straight appearance at the AFCON finals, could be forced to miss the make-or-break showdown against the Congolese Red Devils.
The Warriors need, at worst, just a point to confirm their place in Egypt at this year’s Nations Cup finals.
A loss, though, will see the Warriors, who lead their group with just a game to go in the qualifiers, missing the continent’s biggest football showcase.
Billiat is the second leading goal-scorer for the Warriors in this campaign with two goals after scoring against Congo in Brazzaville and the 1-1 draw with DRC at the National Sports Stadium.
Captain Knowledge Musona leads the group’s scoring charts with four goals.
Last night, in an ABSA Premiership game that looked like a Zimbabwean football festival with a number of the country’s football stars on parade, Billiat took his place in the Chiefs starting XI on a poor pitch at Mbombela Stadium. The other Zimbabwean players who featured in last night’s match were former Warriors skipper, Willard Katsande, who captained Chiefs while Evans Rusike and Onismor Bhasera started for SuperSport United. Warriors defender Teenage Hadebe was on the Chiefs bench.
Coach Kaitano Tembo took charge of SuperSport United who took the lead early into the match, with Rusike playing a role in that goal, before Billiat replied with a stunning equaliser in the 13th minute.
The diminutive forward, who was virtually unplayable in that first half in a welcome return to form, found possession just inside his half and went on a mazy run into the heart of the SuperSport defence.
An attempted pass saw the ball hit a defender and roll back into his path and he made the most of that, curling the ball home from outside the penalty area, giving the goalkeeper, who didn’t even more, no chance at all. Now, and again, he kept running at the SuperSport defence, with Kaitano’s men unsure of how to deal with his pace and artistry, and he could have scored another stunning second had his shot not found the hurdle of a defender.
Having sneaked into the back post, Billiat was found by a teammate and he didn’t take a touch, to bring the ball down, instead hitting it first time only for the block by the defender to deny him what could have been a spectacular goal.