Chitembwe unfazed by CL draw

HARARE - CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe believes self-belief will be crucial after the Zimbabwean side was drawn to face tough north African opposition in the African Champions League.

In a draw conducted in Egypt on Wednesday, the Green Machine were pitted against five-time African champions Zamalek of Egypt, 2015 finalists USM Alger of Algeria and Al-Ahli Tripoli of Libya in what is likely to be a cut-throat Group B.

Makepekepe have started the defence of their Zimbabwe league title with some inconsistent performances, amassing three draws and only a single win in their opening four matches.

On Wednesday, the Green Machine threw away a two-goal lead against Ngezi Platinum Stars in a match that ended in controversy.

Ngezi’s equaliser came in the 95th minute after the fourth official had indicated only three minutes.

Kelvin Bulaji’s header also appeared not to have crossed the line but the match officials allowed the goal to stand.

Despite the domestic blues, Chitembwe is confident his side will be no push-overs in the African Champions League Group B.      

“We anticipated that and it was obvious because all these teams are not there by chance but rather they are the best in Africa,” Chitembwe told the Daily News.

“Of course, you cannot choose who to play against and we have no excuse at all. There are no easy games at this level of the competition.

“Remember in the qualifying stages it was also difficult from the start but we negotiated our way through.

“I think we only need to keep working hard, the same way we have done in the qualifying stages. We just need to believe in ourselves and anything is possible in football.

“It’s not really about the profile of the teams that we are facing but rather what we can do as a team.”

Chitembwe believes by virtue of qualifying for the group stages, his side has achieved a considerable feat and all the praise should go to the players for their strong character under difficult circumstances.

“I think an honour for the club to be able to participate at such a high level. That alone should be something that needs to be applauded and respected — rubbing shoulders with the best in Africa,” he said.

“Credit should obviously go to the players for making it possible to play at the highest level of African football.

“It was not easy and not a lot of people gave us a chance to be where we are today. But God has his own way of answering our prayers and here we are today.”

Makepekepe begin their African Champions League campaign with a tough trip to Cairo, Egypt to face Zamalek on the weekend of May 12-14.

The White Knights are always a strong team opponent at the Cairo International Stadium a venue where their ultras come in huge numbers to fill the 75 000-seater facility. 

Chitembwe is already looking forward to that opening match against Zamalek.   

“I have played in Cairo before more than 10 times and I really know what to expect from there,” he said.

“Some of these players have also been there and they will tell you it’s not an easy place but obviously self-belief will be key to our quest.”

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