Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
Caps United 2 – 1 Highlanders
CLIVE RUPIYA scored one of the best goals seen in the domestic Premiership to settle a lively Battle of the Cities showdown at the National Sports Stadium yesterday that could have gone either way.
In the end, it was Caps United who won it, rallying from behind to snatch full points and move within a point of champions and leaders, FC Platinum, who succumbed to a loss in the Lowveld.
But Highlanders know they did enough to have also won this match, fuffing some fine chances, including when Prince Dube went one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and hitting the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten.
How they didn’t bury one of those chances remains a mystery.
However, it was Caps United who went home with the bragging rights and kept alive their campain to be champions again this year.
Reports indicated that this could have been coach Lloyd Chitembwe’s final game in charge of the Green Machine.
But, after the emotions of yesterday’s win, and with the Caps fans showing him a lot of love, our sister paper, The Herald, understands the club’s leaders are working around the clock to try and make him stay.
While, on Friday, it appeared Chitembwe was on his way to Harare City, things changed dramatically yesterday and sources said the gaffer is now likely to remain at Makepekepe.
And, the gaffer said the result, and not his future, was more important.
“What is body language? Body language for me is not important. Sometimes people want to put a ot of interest in things which are not important,’’ he said.
“In as much as I am concerned, the result is much more important.
“I don’t want anything to take away from this good performance. I think other things are a distraction to this performance.
“For now, let’s not talk about anything, let’s talk about the game. I don’t want to talk about things that will take away the gloss from this performance.
“The three points is what matters at the end of the day.
“That subject (leaving Caps United), I am sure is for another day.”
Kelvin Ndebele’s strike and a beauty by Clive Rupiya in the first half ensured a come-from-behind win for Caps United.
The lively Ray Lunga had thrust the visitors ahead in the 10th minute.
Apart from the uncertainty surrounding Chitembwe’s future at the Harare giants, it was a duel befitting of an epic Battle of the Cities and could have gone either way.
Three goals, one of them a beauty, a penalty appeal and appeals from the Bosso players that the ball had crossed the line all combined to create a fine afternoon for the fans.
Zifa president, Felton Kamambo, and his wife were among the fans while NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje, whose company sponsors the two giants, also watched the big match.
With Lunga, Prince Dube and Brian Banda in top form, the Makepekepe defence was made to work overtime in the initial stages.
But it was Dominic Chungwa, at the opposite end, who was supposed to break the ice when he forced his way past a thicket of Bosso defenders but his shot was parried back into play by impressive veteran goalkeeper, Ariel Sibanda, from point blank range.
Highlanders struck immediately after as Lunga came to the end of a perfect Prince Dube’s low cross.
But Makepekepe took the game to their opponents with Ndebele squeezing in a rebound 19 minutes later after Justice Jangano’s powerful header had been punched back into play by Sibanda.
Then Rupiya conjured up some pure magic just five minutes after Ndebele’s goal.
Receiving a lofted pass from Joel Ngodzo, on the left flank, the youthful winger roasted his marker before curling the ball past a static Sibanda who would only watch as the ball floated into the far post.
The first instalment of this battle at Barbourfields in April was marred by some controversial officiating by Thabani Bamala.
Yesterday, referee Brighton Chimene had a fair game but Highlanders coach, Mandla Mpofu, questioned some of the decisions.
Mpofu, whose six-match unbeaten run ended yesterday, felt they should have been awarded a goal at the end when Prince Dube’s deflected header appeared heading home before a sprawling Prosper Chigumba scooped it back into play.
“Well done to Caps United but again, a denied goal, maybe. If it crossed the line, then football is about luck,’’ he said.
“Match officials know better. We don’t want to be cry-babies. We don’t want to be talking about match officials.
“They are human beings, they make mistakes. But we don’t want a situation whereby coaches are always complaining about the match officials.’’
Joel Ngodzo then had a chance to extend Caps United lead when he caught Sibanda off guard but his speculative shot bounced in front of goal and flew over.
Some big games, like this one, are often tight affairs but this Battle of the Cities was an open show and there were plenty of chances either end. Prince Dube will spend the week trying to find out how he failed to beat Chigumba after he streaked clear on goal in the first half.
Having controlled well, Dube took a touch and appeared set to score but his effort was weak and the goalkeeper saved.
Caps United: P Chigumba, J Jangano, G Goriyati, M Mwanjali (S Masunda 90th min) K Nyamupfukudza, D Mukandi, J Ngodzo, K Ndebele (V Musarurwa 69th min), C Rupiya, D Chungwa (V Ndaba 86th min)
Highlanders: A Sibanda, A Silla, B. Banda, R. Lunga, A Mbeba, B Sibanda 76th min), T Ndlovu, P Muduhwa, M Ndlovu, M Sibanda, P Dube, D Mhindirira