CAPS do it the hard way

HARARE - At the final whistle, there was hysteria inside the National Sports Stadium yesterday as CAPS United players, coaches, officials and their fans realised they had just made history.

Makepekepe had just defied all odds to dump DR Congo giants TP Mazembe out of the African Champions League.

When the draw for this competition was held in Cairo, Egypt last December, not many people gave the Green Machine a chance of reaching the group stages of Africa’s premier inter-club competition.

On their way to the lucrative last 16 of the competition, Makepekepe had to overcome one of the aristocrats of African football in TP Mazembe.

By virtue of being five-time African champions, the Ravens were always the favourites to progress but this CAPS United side had showed their steel on their way to winning the Zimbabwe championship last year.

Makepekepe needed to show that strong character again yesterday as they were constantly under pressure from the visitors.

Having played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg a week ago in Lubumbashi, Mazembe needed to at least score here to qualify for the last 16.

As for CAPS United, the brief was very simple: A goalless draw was sufficient to reach the group stages via the away goals rule.

From the onset, it was pretty clear the home side was playing out for this result as they were sitting very deep in their own half while allowing the visitors all the possession.

Mazembe created the first real chance of the match when Solomom Asante sent in a free kick from the right but Salif Coulibaly headed over from five yards out after only three minutes.

The Malian defender was all unmarked at the back post as he met Asante’s set-piece with the entire Makepekepe defence dwarfed.

That set the tone for the remainder of the first half as Mazembe were pouring forward in large numbers in search of that precious away goal.

To their credit, the Makepekepe defenders Dennis Dauda, Justice Jangano, Valentine Musarurwa and Hardlife Zvirekwi were superb all afternoon.

Giant goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda was also colossal between the sticks as he made a number of telling saves.

Central midfielder Devon Chafa and captain Moses Muchenje were also disciplined as they gave cover to their back four.

Phenias Bamusi, Tafadzwa Rusike, Simba Nhivi and Abbas Amidu were also working hard to track back to help out in defence as CAPS needed all hands on deck to repel the visitors.

After weathering the early Mazembe pressure, United started to gain more composure and in the 22nd minute Muchenje almost found the back of the net from the edge of the box.

His volley was, however, blocked for a corner by Kevin Mundeko with the Mazembe keeper Sylvain Gbohouo scrambling.

Mazembe were enjoying a lot of traffic on the right side were Asante and wing back Djos Issama were causing all sorts of problems for the young Musarurwa, who was deputising for injured Ronald Pfumbidzai.

Although he was being overloaded, the Makepekepe youngster was putting in extra effort to hurry the Mazembe players.

There was a scare for Makepekepe when in the 35th minute Asante found the side netting with a free kick from the edge of the box.

Sibanda was well beaten by the set-piece but fortunately for the Green Machine, the ball missed the upright by a few inches.

At the other end, Bamusi nearly unlocked the visitors’ defence when he broke free on the left before sending in a cross at the near post.

Coulibaly made a timely intervention as he cleared for a corner with Rusike breathing down is neck.

In the second period, Mazembe threw everything at Makepekepe but they were denied by Sibanda. The Makepekepe keeper made fine saves from Adama Traore, substitute Meschak Elia and Coulibaly.

Sibanda could have also got onto the score sheet but his free kick midway through the second half was saved by his opposite number Gbohouo.

In the end, Makepekepe did not need to score as they held out for a famous draw which was celebrated more like a win by the entire club. 

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