By Eddie Chikamhi
CAPS United coach Darlington Dodo was short of words to describe his disappointment after his side failed to seize the momentum in this year’s Castle Lager Premiership football title race in a drawn game against Yadah at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The Green Machine blew away a golden opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table after surrendering a two-goal advantage in a horrendous finish to the first half.
John Zhuwawu and Ronald Chitiyo gave them a good head start early in the game, having gone into the game against the relegation candidates with the knowledge that their title rivals FC Platinum and Chicken Inn had dropped points the previous day.
Despite the perfect start, the Green Machine, who also lost goalkeeper Tonderai Mateyaunga through a groin injury, could not safeguard their lead as Yadah hit back via Paddington Nyamakura and Nkosi Mhlanga just before the break.
The result meant Makepekepe still kept their place at the top with a two-point cushion after taking their tally to 55 points with three games remaining in the season.
Chicken Inn, who drew 1-1 with Hwange, and FC Platinum, who were involved in a goalless draw against Highlanders on Saturday, are still breathing down their necks, on 53 points apiece.
“It’s very embarrassing how we conceded the goals and gave away the game,” said Dodo. “It’s very unfortunate because we had grip on the game. We started well, did what we were supposed to do.
“We took a lead and unfortunately, we just decided to let it go. I can’t really find a word to describe it but we gave away those goals. It’s sad. This is two points lost, it’s terrible but we will regroup and map the way forward,” said Dodo.
Zhuwawu put Makepekepe ahead after seven minutes with a beautiful finish after Yadah defenders mistimed the ball through the middle.
The forward dashed into the space, cleverly chipped the ball over the keeper Issah Ali and then followed up with an easy tap-in into the empty nets.
CAPS United had appeals for penalty turned down after Phineas Bamusi fell inside the box under challenge from Enock Karembo a few minutes later.
Yadah’s veteran forward Ralph Matema escaped with a yellow card for his attempt to cheat with his hand when knocking the ball with his fist in a one on one situation with the goalkeeper Mateyaunga as they pressed for an equaliser.
But Chitiyo doubled Makepekepe’s lead with an exquisite volley after controlling the ball well inside the box following an exchange between Kelvin Ndebele and Zhuwawu 21 minutes into the game.
However, CAPS United suffered a setback to their game-plan with the injury to their goalkeeper Mateyaunga, who appeared to strain his groin when delivering a long ball forward.
New goalkeeper Prosper Chigumba almost got a baptism of fire in the 31st minute when Nkosi Mhlanga found space inside the box and fired a rising shot that came off the post.
Still Chigumba was found wanting from a 34th minute free-kick by Mhlanga which took one bounce and skidded to the left of the badly positioned keeper, who apparently appeared to have lost his footing when he went for the ball.
Yadah managed to level the scores before the break when big forward Nyamakura bulldozed his way past the static Makepekepe defenders and slotted the ball past Chigumba.
Yadah goalkeeper Issah Ali kept the scores like that with a double save before the half-time whistle. An alert Ali tipped Chitiyo’s diving header over the bar before denying Joel Ngodzo’s ferocious strike in the added time of the first half.
CAPS United could have been punished for another shoddy piece of defending on 54 minutes but they survived after Nyamakura headed wide a cross from Leeroy Mavhunga.
Makepekepe survived heartbreak when Mhlanga’s 85th minute header was waved off-side. The Yadah players appeared content with the point and they did everything to slow down the game, with keeper Ali getting a booking for time wasting.
Still Yadah need to continue fighting as they are slowly losing their grip in the relegation battles. They are second from the bottom with 32 points.
Their coach Genesis Mangombe was not happy with the disallowed 85th minute goal. Mangombe thought the points they gained was still fine with his team going into the final stretch of the survival race.
“We tried our level best as a team fighting to come out of the relegation zone but at times the match officials should handle these games fairly.
“We did everything and we then managed to get that goal which I thought was genuine from my own observation and understanding of the game. But he denied it and we failed to win.
“But I thought we played very well and even matched CAPS United. It’s unfortunate we made some of those silly mistakes, of which it happens in football.
“So we have to go back to the drawing board and try to get maximum points in our remaining fixtures. Mathematically there are chances of surviving. We need to win those remaining games and hopefully stay in the Premiership,” said Mangombe.
Yadah: I. Ali, L. Mucheto, J. Chitereki, M. Musiyakuvi, S. Linyama, E. Karembo (W. Kamudyariwa, 90th minute), N. Mhlanga, L. Mavhunga, R. Matema, G. Mangani (T. Mkahlera, 68th minute), P. Nyamakura (I. Sadiki, 81st minute).
CAPS United: T. Mateyaunga (P. Chigumba, 29th minute), V. Musarurwa, V. Ndaba, J. Jangano, G. Goriyati (L Zvasiya, 57th minute), D. Mukandi, J. Ngodzo, P. Bamusi, K. Ndebele, R. Chitiyo (D. Chungwa, 68th minute), J. Zhuwawu. The Herald