Eddie Chikamhi in ALGIERS, Algeria
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe says there is no reason for the Green Machine to drop their heads in shame after bowing out of the CAF Champions League campaign with defeat at the hands of USM Alger here on Sunday night.
This Class of 2017, which has already smashed records, were hoping to become the first to win a quarter-final slot for the Green Machine in Africa’s premier inter-club football tournament.
However, they suffered a disappointing 4-1 defeat when they needed an outright victory in the last match.
Makepekepe will now return home to take care of domestic matters, including a Harare Derby showdown against Dynamos.
It was always going to be an uphill task on foreign land, but CAPS United had raised the hopes of their fans following that big 3-1 win over Egyptian giants Zamalek at the National Sports Stadium.
Despite finishing bottom of Group B, Chitembwe reckoned it had been an exciting adventure filled with priceless lessons.
Along the way, CAPS United had good wins at home over USM Alger, Zamalek 3-1 and eliminated five-time champions TP Mazembe.
“We are not really looking at the loss. I think we are drawing a lot of positives from our participation in the competition. I am sure we are a very young team at this competition and we are very proud of what we have achieved going forward.
“It wasn’t easy, but I thought we gave a very good fight in the competition. It wasn’t easy to play against TP Mazembe, it wasn’t easy to play Zamalek and USM Alger.
“I thought we gave a very good fight and in future that kind of experience is going to help us move forward.
“Being a young team in this competition, we had to go through certain levels of experience and it is these experiences that I believe we will be able to use in future.
“In as far as I’m concerned I thought it was quite an adventurous journey for the team, the technical staff and even the management of the team was very supportive and I am sure next season we would want to compete again.
“So I don’t want to be too hard on ourselves. I thought we have done well.
“We did compete against some of the big boys and had these experiences. We only want to draw positives from our participation in the hope that we will be able to use them in the future,” said Chitembwe.
The Harare giants needed an outright win, but they could not stand the pressure from the hosts who struck twice before the breather courtesy of Ziri Hammar and Okacha Hamzaoui.
The hosts, who enjoyed the backing of a vociferous crowd, were on top from the first whistle as CAPS United defended deep early.
But they paid dearly for the goalkeeping errors and some defensive shortcomings as the hosts pressed hard.
Makepekepe forward Abbas Amidu, who has attracted foreign suitors was rewarded for his outstanding work rate with the consolation in the 81st minute.
But the game had already slipped out of their hands with Darfalou getting his second of the match on 88 minutes after tapping in from close range a spill by the goalkeeper.
In the end Makepekepe finished bottom of the table with six points.
Probably one big lesson they learnt is that in Africa losing at home is tragic.
They would forever rue the 2-4 home defeat they suffered at the hands of Libyans Al Ahli Tripoli at the National Sports Stadium.
USM Alger finished on pole position with 11 points and Paul Put’s men progressed to the quarter-finals together with Al Ahli Tripoli who played a 2-2 draw with Zamalek to end their campaign on nine points.
Zamalek and CAPS United had six points apiece, but the Egyptians had a better head to head because of the 2-1 win over Makepekepe in their opening match of the campaign.
USM Alger, who are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year, are now set to meet Mozambican side Ferroviario da Beira in the last eight in September.
Ferroviario da Beira, who have Zimbabwean goalkeeper Willard Manyatera in their books, proceeded to the quarter-finals following the dismissal of Sudanese giants Al Hilal after FIFA suspended the country’s football association.
Chitembwe would have fancied a date with neighbours Ferroviario still tipped the Algerians to go further.
“I don’t want to get much into the technical aspect of the game, but I think they have a very good team and I think they stand a very good chance.
“I am sure they will continue doing well as the tournament goes,” said Chitembwe.
CAPS United are expected back home this afternoon.