CAPS United rivals are feasting on the champions, whose defence of their title has run into turbulence, flooding social media with fixtures of the Green Machine’s league matches in Division One next year.
Lloyd Chitembwe’s men crashed to a 2-3 defeat at the hands of Harare City at Rufaro on Saturday, conceding a goal from a deflected effort in the last seconds of the match, to remain rooted in the drop zone.
The champions had fought back courageously to take the lead midway in the second half, with substitute Dominic Chungwa stroking the ball home, but their defensive shortcomings – which have haunted them all season – came back to haunt them in the dying stages of the match.
An own-goal gave the Sunshine Boys their equaliser and then, with the two minutes of time added on already up, the ball deflected wickedly from Devon Chafa – playing in a makeshift role as a centre-back – to beat the goalkeeper and give Harare City victory.
“It would have been unfair for us to lose this match or not get anything out of it given the way we dominated the first half and the chances we created,” a visibly emotional Harare City coach, Philani ‘Beefy’ Ncube, told The Herald.
“Credit to the boys for the way they kept on fighting.”
The Green Machine have responded to their defensive shortcomings by signing Steve Makatuka, one of the pillars of their championship-winning squad, who had left for South Africa at the beginning of the year.
Makatuka – who was one of the CAPS United captains – was being chased by leaders Ngezi Platinum with coach Tonderai Ndiraya even mocking Makepekepe as ‘kumashanga’, in his attempts to lure the gangly centre-back.
But the defender decided to stick with the club which has been a big part of his life, in a show of loyalty that is set to delight the Green Machine fans, rather than go to one where his bank account was likely to be bloated by a bigger signing-on fee and where financial challenges – which usually rock the Green Machine – are not part of their culture.
Makatuka was registered by CAPS United yesterday and Chitembwe believes the centre-back will provide his side with the defensive stability that has been lacking in recent games.
Makepekepe have a fixtures backlog and have seven games in hand over leaders Ngezi Platinum.
This means, in theory, if they win all their matches in hand, they will move within two points of the leaders and the club leadership still believes they are still in the championship race.
“All we need is just to win one game and the confidence comes back,” said Chitembwe.
“Of course, you can see that we are not yet where we were last year and the loss of some key players has badly affected us, the injuries have come at a wrong time and we have played a lot of games with a small group of players to choose from.
“But this is football and our fans deserve a winning CAPS United and we also demand a winning CAPS United and we all have to work together to make that happen, the players, the coaches, the management and the supporters.”
Club president Farai Jere says he hasn’t given up a successful defence of their title.
“Norman Mapeza lost the first four games, if I’m not mistaken, during his time at Monomotapa but then went on an unbeaten run and won the championship in 2008,” said Jere.
“We have shown, we have the capacity of doing that and I am not giving up hope, not at the moment, because I know what these guys can do and I have confidence in them.
“The defence has been lightweight and we have addressed that and let’s see how we play going forward because we are just one win away from getting our confidence back.”
But their opponents have been brutal.
Some have even gone to the extent of producing a 2018 Division One fixture programme that shows Makepekepe set to play Karoi United in their first match.
CAPS United are currently third from the bottom, and in relegation trouble, although their games in hand mean they have hope of negotiating their way from that position.
However, their critics have been saying those matches in hand have been dwindling and CAPS United have been losing those games.
The critics say the Green Machine have been a spectacular fall and, instead of travelling from Cape to Cairo in the Champions League this year, they are set now to travel from Cairo to Karoi in the wake of their relegation.
The Harare giants have lost four games in the 12 matches they have played so far this season, which represents a quarter of the matches they have played in the championship race.
Last year, Makepekepe lost only three matches in 30 games as they powered to the league championship.
They have already conceded 15 goals in their 12 matches while they conceded only 21 goals the entire championship race last year.
“Last year, we were the team that was scoring in the last-minute and winning points and not the other way round and we need to get back to that level,” said Chitembwe.
“We have lost the spine of our team through injuries, movement or some of those whose mind hasn’t been fully applied to the task because of all the speculation.”The Herald