Johannesburg - Newcomers Vasco da Gama scored one of the biggest upsets of the Absa Premiership season when they defeated title-chasing Kaizer Chiefs 3-2 in a pulsating clash played at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
Vasco were well served by their 35-year-old captain and former Bafana Bafana striker Sibusiso Zuma who scored one goal and played a vital role in the win until he was replaced in the 71st minute. Zuma's experience proved invaluable.
The atmosphere was surreal inside the 95 000 stadium in which around 10 000 Chiefs fans massed on the south side leaving the north stand completely empty.
But it will be a different story here next Saturday when Chiefs play their archrivals Orlando Pirates in the Telkom Knockout final where the "house full" signs will go up on Monday. The PSL have made 80 000 tickets available and they are selling out fast.
Chiefs hoped to steal a march on Bucs by beating Vasco in their dry run at the cup final venue but that plan backfired thanks to the imaginative Vasco who more than deserved their three points. But, for Chiefs, it is a setback that coach Vladimir Vermezovic did not need a week before playing Pirates in a major cup final.
Vermezovic rested his first choice keeper Itumeleng Khune and star midfielders Siphiwe Tshabalala who are on two yellow cards not wanting to risk either player getting a third caution and missing the final. He also rested midfield hardman Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
Chiefs fired the first shot in anger when Josta Dladla's powerfully struck free kick flew over the crossbar in the fifth minute.
But it was the PSL rookies who drew first blood in the ninth minute when Jonathan Armogam sliced through a cluster of bemused Chiefs defenders and unleashed a thunderbolt which gave keeper Arthur Bartman no chance to put Vasco into a shock 1-0 lead.
Vasco threw away the chance to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute when Rudi Isaacs raced for goal and, with only Bartman to beat, he saw his teammate Zuma lying injured and played the ball out of play thinking Zuma needed help. But Zuma jumped up not needing treatment and a chance to double their lead was gone.
Vasco impressed by taking the game to their more experienced opponents and had the home defence in trouble in the 17th minute when striker Sthembiso Ngcobo, in helping his defence clear their lines, almost scored a spectacular own goal.
Once Amakhosi found their rhythm they started taking control. Vasco keeper Postnet Omony did well to tip a well hit shot from Knowledge Musona over his crossbar in the 23rd minute. The magical Musona then headed wide from a well-directed cross from his captain Jimmy Tau in the 29th minute.
The pressure paid off two minutes later when Musona threaded through a brilliant ball to Abia Nale who beat Omony with a great strike to make it 1-1.
Chiefs almost made it 2-1 in the 39th minute when Omony did well to parry Nale's shot and from the resulting goal mouth mle Ngcobo ballooned the ball over the upright from close range.
Then on the stroke of halftime George Lebese drilled a shot against the Vasco side netting as Chiefs piled on the pressure.
It was the evergreen Zuma who rolled back the years and stunned Chiefs for the second time when he won the ball on the byline, dribbled Bartman and slotted home a classic goal to make it 2-1 in the 56th minute.
Zuma should have been awarded a penalty three minutes later when he was manhandled by two defenders Valery Nahayo and Dominic Isaacs but referee Lwandile Mfiki, who failed to keep up with play, saw nothing wrong with the two burly defenders pulling Zuma to the ground inside the danger area as he was about to attempt to make it 3-1.
Zuma came close in the 62nd minute when he shot wide and a minute later Chiefs substitute Siyabulela Songwiqi wasted a chance to level the match when he fired over the crossbar from close range.
Chiefs pushed hard for the equaliser and it took a superb save from Omony to prevent Musona making it 2-2 in the 69th minute.
Musona who was in the thick of the action shot over the crossbar with 15 minutes remaining.
Chiefs' defence went walkabout in the 82nd minute and Vasco substitute Jonathan Fransman was unmarked and beat Bartman with a well aimed shot to make it 3-1.
To their credit, Chiefs fought back and reduced the deficit five minutes from time when their substitute Lucky Khune scored to make it 3-2 from a Songwiqi free kick.
Vasco managed to weather six minutes of additional time to secure a famous victory.