The Green Machine’s Black Friday

LLOYD CHITEMBWE has attributed his team’s Champions League defeat to Zamalek to inexperience and insists that his Caps United players are quick learners who will bounce back in their next Group B assignment at home on May 25.

Caps United made their mini-league debut with a tough assignment against five-time champions Zamalek at Borg El Arab Stadium on Friday night, and Zimbabwe’s soccer kings immediately learnt the hard way that there is a gulf in class between the teams that feature regularly in the group stages, and preliminary round part-timers like Lioli of Lesotho.

After holding fort, Caps United cracked twice in the second half as they were punished for loose marking in the 55th minute and seven minutes from the end with Zamalek finding the target via the heads of Baseem Morsi and substitute Stanley Yohayetsi.

The Green Machine got off to a jittery start in the opening 15 minutes and were left to thank luck for not conceding at least three goals in that quarter of an hour.

In just the second minute, from Zamalek’s second corner inside that torrid spell, midfielder Moses Muchenje cleared the ball of the line.

The White Knights, runners-up in last year’s Champions League final won by Mamelodi Sundowns, came charging again and by the fifth minute they had forced three corners. Zamalek’s cause was aided by mistakes by the Caps United defence, with centre-backs Justice Jangano and Denis Dauda guilty of blind passes.

As he reflected on the game yesterday, Chitembwe acknowledged they have could have been easily punished in the first half in particular.

The Makepekepe coach pinned the defeat on inexperience. “It’s down to experience and experience is experience. But I am happy with the way they quickly gained their composure after those mistakes at the start of the game. Some players actually take games to gain that composure but these guys gained it during the match,’’ Chitembwe said.

Chitembwe insisted that his boys acquitted themselves well. “When one looks at key factors of performance which is technical, tactical, physical, and the mental aspect, I think the application was perfect,” he said. “Technically I think we were slightly better than the more seasoned Zamalek. Physically I think we finished stronger and our tactical application was good.

“Probably where we did not apply ourselves well was the mental aspect and concentration is one key area of that mental factor. We lost concentration and they capitalised on that. Overally I thought it was a good performance and the result did not reflect the way these boys performed.”

Chitembwe believes the defeat could assist his charges to “learn faster and gain experience”. “I think this is the only way to get experience for some of them. But I think to acquit themselves the way they did, I thought they did well and if there a generation of players that can change the fortunes of this club, it is this generation.

“The boys applied themselves and imposed ourselves on Zamalek showed our intentions to want to win this game,” he said.

Caps United needed to make the most of the few chances they created on Friday night, Chitembwe noted. “At this level of the game you can’t dominate two halves and for us to take the initiative for the better part of the second half shows that we did the right thing. They completely dominated in the first half but we were better in the second half’,” he said.

“We gave as much as we got from them. When I look at it I thought it could have been much better if we had taken a point from this game but sometimes football can be very unfair. Who knows maybe it will be us who will get what we don’t deserve next time and that is the nature of football.

“We also had a chance of prevailing over them especially in the second half and that also gives us belief that there is something that these guys are doing right.”

After a first round of Group B action that has left USM Alger at the summit on goal difference with Zamalek in second place, Makepekepe third and Al Ahli Tripoli fourth, Chitembwe believes the pool will be decided right at the death.

“Yes we might have lost this one but I think we are still in it. This group will only be decided by what happens after six games and we cannot wait for our next game to try and get a result,’’ said the Caps coach.

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