CAPS a step closer

HARARE - For now the dream remains alive and well, at least for another week for CAPS United.

Only 90 minutes of the tie against Chapungu stand in the way for Lloyd Chitembwe to etch his name permanently into the Green Machine’s history books by becoming the first person to win the Premier League title both as a player and coach at his beloved club and end the 11-year title drought.

This class of 2016 side can never be compared by any strength of imagination to any of the previous swashbuckling title-winning sides of 1979, 1996, 2004-5, but they certainly have made a mark of their own.

Forget the strikes over unpaid bonuses and salaries, this United side have, to their credit managed to turn the National Sports Stadium into their fortress, finishing the whole season unbeaten at home, such has been their character this year.

Going into yesterday’s match, United had to keep ears open of the happenings of the FC Platinum-Highlanders tie while at the same time focusing on their task at hand.

FC Platinum’s 3-0 win over Bosso yesterday means the title race is now between Chitembwe and Mapeza’s sides going into the last match of the season.

A win over John Nyikadzino’s Chapungu will mean United will be crowned league champions for the fifth time in their history, regardless of the result in the FC Platinum-Tsholotsho match.

Even after the match, Chitembwe refused to get ahead of himself instead choosing to focus on his team’s last assignment.

“Well this was one good game, we showed character and strength but the challenge is now on us to do well in the next game and obviously emulate the good that was done by the previous title-winning CAPS United sides,” he said.

“For now, I don’t want to dwell on what our rivals are doing. I want to focus on the good that we can achieve as a team. I’m sorely focusing on my team for now.”

The permutations are clear, but in yesterday’s encounter, the home side showed clear signs of anxiety as they nearly went down early in the second minute when Ngezi Platinum forward Terrence Dzukamanja waltzed his way past the United defence only to be denied by Edmore Sibanda’s fingertips and the underside of the crossbar.

After that early scare, the match drew into a big yawn with the visitors seemingly content with sitting back and letting United come at them.

Makepekepe’s leading scorer Leonard Tsipa was largely ineffective and anonymous the entire opening half, as he was placed under shackles by the defensive duo of Edgar Tapera and Partson Jaure.

Up until they found their opening goal through Simba Nhivi, United had failed to give any trouble to Nelson Chadya in goals for Ngezi Platinum.

Chitembwe’s men to their credit, however, continued probing Ngezi’s channels and looked dangerous at set pieces.

When United found the opener in the 35th minute, it came after Chadya’s half clearance of a corner kick fell into the path of Josta Ngodzo who sent in a cross for an unmarked Ronald Pfumbidzai who cut back a pass for Nhivi to score.

The second half was worth the money as both sides began to take the game to each other.

Ngezi came out of their shells but failed to trouble Sibanda’s goal.

On the other end, Nhivi linked up well with Hardlife Zvirekwi on the right and looked dangerous on the break as United looked for an assurance goal.

Ngodzo had a chance to add to United’s tally in the 65th minute but fluffed a chance inside the area when sent through by Tsipa.

Moments later, it was Nhivi’s turn to waste another of United’s chances when he controlled a miscued Dominic Chungwa shot, turned his marker but was denied by the heroics of Chadya.

Ngezi had a strong penalty appeal turned away by referee Arnold Ncube in the dying moments of the tie but that was as close as they could get.

After the match, Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderai Ndiraya was disappointed with the defeat but felt his charges could have at least snatched a draw.

“Congratulations to CAPS United, they deserve the title, they are a good side and they showed that today, all the best to them in their last match,” he said.

“I thought we conceded a soft goal and we didn’t play as well as we did in the second half. We had a penalty appeal which I thought was genuine from where I was standing but we can’t moan over such decisions because we had the whole of 90 minutes to score.”

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