By Eddie Chikamhi
Dynamos coach Lloyd Mutasa has backed his top marksman Christian Joel Epoupa to put behind him the frustrations from a prolonged goal drought and play a key role in the Castle Lager Premiership title run-in. The Cameroonian gunslinger, who at one point was favourite for the Golden Boot award after dominating the domestic charts and scoring some of the best goals, appears to have lost his touch at the most crucial stage of the season.
But his woes in front of goal aside, Epoupa’s industry was crucial when he provided the assist for the 88th minute goal by Quality Kangadze as DeMbare edged Chapungu 1-0 at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday to revive their fight in the title race. That industry, which saw Epoupa tracking back in search of the ball and making his physical presence felt in the Dynamos attacking third won him praise from his coach.
“Of course he was down in the previous games but on Sunday he was the reason why we got that late goal. The technical team is still happy, if you look at his contributions to the overall play. That guy is gifted with amazing technique and creativity. But we must also realise that what matters most at this stage is not about winning individual accolades. It’s about the team, it’s about getting results. We are happy he contributes positively to the team. Yes he hasn’t been scoring of late, it happens with any striker in the world, but we look forward to more positive play from him,” said Mutasa.
Epoupa has not been able to find the back of the nets since the giants played a 1-1 draw against Highlanders at Rufaro two months ago. The Cameroonian was shown a straight red in that ill-tempered match following a scuffle with Bosso defender Peter Muduhwa. He has struggled to lift himself after serving his two-match suspension. With 11 goals in the bag, Epoupa has found himself in a difficult position in his bid to win the Golden Boot in his maiden dance with Zimbabwean football.
Epoupa has now fallen four goals behind the league’s leading scorer and CAPS United hit man Dominic Chungwa as the season heads for the last three games and it would need something special for the West African to close that gap. It has also been a while for Kangadze, whose season has been blighted by injuries but his goal on Sunday saved the day for the Glamour Boys who had not won in their last three games.
Dynamos coach Mutasa also spoke glowingly about his youth brigade as he looks to fill the gap left by one of his start players Denver Mukamba who is facing disciplinary proceedings. Mutasa made a bold decision to throw rookies Kudzanayi Dhemere and Valentine Kadonzvo into the fray on Sunday while impressive left back Romario Matova has been commanding a starting place of late.
“I talked about introducing these youngsters two weeks ago when I said they will be part of the team as we go into the home stretch. Romario has been playing regularly of late and has been doing well. The young boys are doing well at training and I think you saw how they changed the complexion of the game when we threw them in on Sunday. I am also happy for Quality. He hasn’t scored in a while but that goal should be a huge boost for him and it’s good for the team as well. But I have observed that every time we have fallen behind this season we came back strongly. Remember when we lost to Black Rhinos we came back and went for eight games unbeaten. It also happened after the loss to FC Platinum. We probably need to do the same this time around, seeing we only have three games left before the end of the season. It’s a tall order but we have to fight hard,” said Mutasa.
Dynamos kept their hopes alive after log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars and FC Platinum also collected maximum points at the weekend to remain tied on 63 points. Ngezi lead because of a superior goal difference. Dynamos are on third place with 61 points. Chicken Inn, who are also still in contention, had set the pace last Friday when they beat Tsholotsho 1-0 to take their points tally to 59. Only four points separate the top four teams and the nation eagerly awaits the blockbuster clash between FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum at Mandava in the penultimate round.
Ngezi will build up to that match with another potential banana-skin against Chicken Inn in their next match. The Premiership programme, will, however pave the way for the FIFA international break and the Chibuku Super Cup final between Harare City and How Mine. But after the break FC Platinum will face relegated Tsholotsho away while Dynamos will travel to Bulawayo City. The Herald