Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
Caps United 0 – 0 TP Mazembe
(1-1 on aggregate, Caps United win the tie 2-1 on the away goals rule)
LLOYD Chitembwe yesterday described his team as the greatest Caps United side ever after they rewrote the history books in style by halting continental heavyweights TP Mazembe and progressing to the group stages of the Caf Champions League for the first time in their history.
For a side that had not been given a chance when the draw was conducted, Makepekepe accomplished a giant-killing act with a display rich in spirit in a goalless draw at the National Sports Stadium.
Abbas Amidu’s goal in the reverse leg, which ended 1-1 in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, counted the most as it became crucial in dumping the five-time champions from the competition.
The wild celebrations as players, supporters and club officials came together summed up the significance of this feat at the end of the day.
“Absolutely (this is the best Caps United team). Results are there to prove that. There is no other Caps United team that has matched or got anywhere near what these boys have achieved and so I think they deserve to be the greatest Caps United team ever,” said Chitembwe.
“At the end of the day the players deserve special mention. They worked hard in training and the spirit within the group is out of this world. I just want to attribute our success to the spirit within the group.
‘’Everyone in the set-up works very hard towards achieving such kind of success. So I am very proud to be one of the organs within the Caps United set-up.”
There was some style to Caps United yesterday.
The Harare giants gave their players royal treatment by flying them in two helicopters to the giant stadium where they received to a raucous welcome from their fans who turned out in numbers despite the hike in gate charges to $5 for the cheapest ticket.
The huge number of supporters managed to dwarf TP Mazembe’s boisterous brass band that played on until the 90th minute.
Caps United defied the logic and stood toe-to-toe with their established opponents.
Goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda was up to the task with some crucial saves and with a bit of luck, he could have scored a brilliant goal past his opposite number Sylvain Gbohouo who did well to turn the ball around the post from one of his trademark free-kicks, with the ball hit with both power and precision.
Makepekepe were a unit as they defended their territory with determination.
Moses Muchenje and Devon Chafa went about their duties with grit in midfield where they gave TP Mazembe skipper Rainford Kalaba and Miche Mika little room to make any destructive moves that usually give the Congolese giants the edge.
Caps United fringe player Valentine Musarurwa, who was playing his second successive game in place of injured Ronald Pfumbidzai, was also in the thick of things, slowing down Ghanaian Asante Solomon who looked dangerous on the wings.
The Ravens wanted a goal in the first half to unsettle the home team but they could not breach the Makepekepe defence.
But as time ticked on the pressure was building in the TP Mazembe camp and their coach Thierry Froger made three substitutions in the second half by bringing in attack-minded players Given Singuluma, Deo Kanda and Misheck Elia but they still could not breach the Caps defence.
Referee Bernard Carmille of the Seychelles, who had been fingered in an intricate plot to help TP Mazembe qualify, was also under pressure to deliver a flawless display.
And, he did just that, refusing to be bullied by the visitors who are used to getting decisions in their favour. Makepekepe continued with their imperial form at the National Sports Stadium where they haven’t lost a match, in regulation time, since Chitembwe’s arrival two years ago.
“It’s down to belief. I’m sure the boys believed we are more formidable at the National Sports Stadium. I think it’s the environment that we are very familiar with. We are very comfortable to play at the National Sports Stadium.
“Let’s see how far we can go. Even last year just before the season started there were a lot of people who were skeptical about the spirit within the group and the quality that we have. I still want them to remain skeptical about our chances in the tournament.
“I’m sure if there is anything that has made us so strong and very formidable is the fact that we have equally good players in any part of the pitch.
“Imagine, for Valentine, this is probably his second biggest game and he performed the way he did. I’m sure it also gives the other player who was meant to play enough room to think about his game and that’s only good for the team,” said Chitembwe.
Froger said Makepekepe deserved the win.
The Frenchman hailed the Green Machine as a strong team.
“They have qualified and that means they are stronger than us,” said Froger.
The Frenchman, who is only a month into the job, will surely have his future tabled for discussion.
The Ravens captain Kalaba said they had only themselves to blame as they failed to take their chances.
“We had many chances in both games but we couldn’t score. TP Mazembe are a big team and they are not on a downfall. It’s unfortunate these things happen in football as you can see even in Europe some big teams fail to qualify.
“We were not lucky with our chances. We missed a lot of chances. If we had scored one goal then the game could have changed,” said Kalaba.
Caps Utd – E. Sibanda, H. Zvirekwi, V. Musarurwa, J. Jangano, D. Dauda, M. Muchenje, D. Chafa, P. Bamusi (K. Nyamupfukudza, 89th minute), T. Rusike (C. Munzabwa, 79th minute), A. Amidu (D. Chungwa, 53rd minute), S. Nhivi.
TP Mazembe – S. Gbohouo, D. Issama, S. Coulibaly, K. Mondeko, A. Zola, C. Kourame (G. Singuluma, 67th minute), M. Mika, R. Kalaba, A. Solomon (D. Kanda, 77th minute), B. Malango (M. Elia, 60th minute), A. Traore