CAPS United defied the odds once again by holding TP Mazembe to a goalless draw at the National Sports Stadium yesterday. The result means that the Green Machine qualified for the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition.
The very thought of CAPS progressing to the group stages seemed unlikely after they laboured to a 2-1 victory over lowly Lesotho champions, Lioli in the preliminary round.
That result alone would have made even the most upbeat optimist skeptical of Makepekepe’s chances of beating five time CAF Champions League champions Mazembe.
However a good first leg showing which earned CAPS a 1-1 draw gave skeptics reason to believe, although it was never going to be easy.
From the moment the game kicked off, the visitors were on the front foot, as Kevin Mundeko showed his intent after missing a headed opportunity.
For much of the game, particularly in the early periods, CAPS were content to sit back and absorb pressure from their much fancied opponents. That philosophy could have paid off halfway through the first half, when captain Moses Muchenje could have scored with a well timed half-volley.
This approach would be the running theme for most of the match, as for every three or four chances Mazembe created, CAPS would create their own. Asene Zola came close to scoing for the visitors, only for CAPS to come close through Tafadzwa Rusike, who couldn’t convert a chance created by Phineas Bhamusi.
As in the first leg, Caps United had goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda to thank for keeping them in the game, especially after he denied Elia Meschak with a fine save just after the hour mark after he was set up by Rainford Kalaba.
CAPS weathered the storm to eventually get the 0-0 that they needed, with players and fans alike celebrating at the final whistle.
Much of CAPS success should be rightfully attributed to coach Lloyd Chitembwe, who had his troops thoroughly prepared for the do or die clash. While some may decry the cautious approach that he played, Chitembwe must have surely been aware that only results matter as he set up his men to deny the visitors an important away goal
The result also saw the Green Machine maintaining their unbeaten run at the National Sports Stadium since in September 2015. The reward for Chitembwe’s charges is a chance to shine at the lucrative group stage of the competition, in which they are guaranteed a $550,000.
CAPS will learn who their opponents in the group stages will be on Monday 20 March, where sterner challenges will surely await them.
However, until then, CAPS will savour this moment in the history, having qualified for the group stages for the first time in their history.