By Eddie Chikamhi
Newman Sianchali was the hero with a header that not only decided yesterday’s Harare Derby against bitter rivals Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium but also kept Caps United firmly in the hunt for this year’s Castle Lager Premiership football title.
Makepekepe maintained a two-point grip at the top of the log standings going into the last two games of the season after nearest rivals FC Platinum were involved in their own 1-0 win over Chapungu at Ascot yesterday.
The third team in the championship race Chicken Inn saw their campaign veering off course in a surprise 1-3 defeat by relegation fighters Bulawayo Chiefs at Luveve on Saturday.
The Gamecocks can still fight back in the last two games but they no longer have it in their hands as they have now fallen five points behind.
Caps United coach Darlington Dodo was thrilled by his team’s response from last week’s disappointing draw against Yadah.
Makepekepe then had an opportunity to extend their lead at the top to four points after the slip-up by FC Platinum and Chicken Inn the previous day but they gave away a two-goal lead to settle for a 2-2 draw against Yadah.
The circumstances were almost similar yesterday after Chicken Inn’s defeat to Bulawayo Chiefs. But this time around the response was spot on, ending Dynamos’ 19-match unbeaten run.
“It was a very tough game against tricky opponents. Remember it was a derby and I am very fortunate to be part of it for the first time,” said CAPS United coach Dodo.
“These boys have made me proud through their hard work and the way they handled themselves on the pitch. They did what we wanted to do. This is exactly what we demand as coaches that players must always come to the party when it matters most.
“This is the response that we expected as CAPS United because we disappointed these people (the supporters) last week and it was really sad that we dropped the points that we needed the most.
“But grinding results against big teams like Dynamos is actually sweet for the team and these boys will grow in confidence because they now believe that they can do it, and it’s achievable. So we just need to keep going, keep working hard and grinding results.”
Makepekepe are now on 58 points, two ahead of FC Platinum who they play in the last game of the season which should decide the season.
CAPS United will travel to Ngezi Platinum next before winding off the season at home against the platinum miners. FC Platinum, on the other hand, would need to make sure they take the race to the wire when they host Black Rhinos next. And yesterday it took 39 minutes for CAPS United to take the lead after Sianchali planted a firm header past the DeMbare goalkeeper Simba Chinani from a cross by Valentine Musarurwa.
Midfielder Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo could have doubled the lead soon after with an angled shot but he missed the target from a square ball by Sianchali.
Veteran Sianchali, who scored a double that sunk ZPC Kariba the last time he featured for Makepekepe, was returning to the starting line-up after missing last week’s clash against Yadah due to suspension.
Makepekepe were missing another striker John Zhuwawu yesterday because of suspension again but Dodo was happy with Sianchali’s rich vein of form which has seen him grabbing important goals at the most crucial moment of the season.
“Newman is a goal poacher. Don’t expect lot of things from him; he is not a smart player who plays very brilliant football. But he is a kind of player who knows exactly what he is supposed to do on the pitch and he does it best, that is scoring goals and I am very happy for him,” said Dodo.
Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya still sounded positive despite the defeat. His team had last lost a league match more than five months ago when they went down to Highlanders by a similar margin at Barbourfields on June 16.
Most of the matches have ended in stalemates, however, and they needed something positive to push for a strong finish as they still cherish a top four position.
Ndiraya stuck to his promise to field young guns with Kudzanai Dhemere and Walter Sande finding their way back into the starting line-up while veterans Edward Sadomba and Simba Nhivi came on as second half substitutes.
Dynamos were not happy with the officiating particularly the decision by referee Ruzive Ruzive to deny them a free-kick late in the first half after their forward Nigel Katawa was impeded by Justice Jangano. Katawa was later taken to the clinic and replaced by Nhivi.
The distraught Dynamos supporters vented their fury on the match officials who had to take cover under a bombardment of missiles as they headed off to the dressing room for the half-time break.
Makepekepe were also forced to make an injury-inspired substitution after defender Spencer Masunda, who appeared to pull a muscle in the first half, felt he could not continue soon after the restart.
His replacement Blessing Sarupinda could have made an instant impact with his first contribution. Sarupinda rode over a couple of tackles in a magical run through the middle but made a poor decision to round off the keeper instead of chipping the ball over the exposed goalminder.
Dynamos had a brilliant chance to equalise midway through the second half but Jangano made a crucial block after Sadomba had latched on to a spill by the goalkeeper Mateyaunga from a brilliant shot by Evans Katema.
CAPS United: T Mateyaunga, V Musarurwa, J Jangano, S Masunda (B Sarupinda, 51st min), L Zvasiya, D Mukandi, J Ngodzo, V. Ndaba, P Bamusi, R Chitiyo, N Sianchali (D Chungwa, 90th min)
Dynamos: S Chinani, E Jalai, T Muringai (S Gona, 84th min), M Mawadza, T Chisi, A. Maliselo, W Sande (E Sadomba, 58th min), K Dhemere, N Katawa (S Nhivi, 46th minute), E. Katema, J Selemani. The Chronicle