Grace Chingoma Sports Reporter
CAPS United………................... (0)1
WHERE does one start in this one — the first goal scored from open play this season, Sean Conner’s first win, the delirium
that engulfed the CAPS United camp, the relief among their fans or, for once, this happy family?
Forget about all the pain that had haunted this proud football club since the season got underway and they staggered from one horrible result to another.
Forget about all the stories that you have heard about the acrimony between Conner and his assistant, Lloyd Chitembwe, which some have blamed for CAPS United’s struggles this year.
Forget about the weird stories you might have heard that this is a cursed team and will not score from open play until some characters are brought back into the technical team.
Forget, too, about all the unrest that erupted in their last match against Monomotapa when, after conceding a late goal to lose the match, some of the fans turned on club vice-president Farai Jere.
Well, the Green Machine family at the National Sports Stadium yesterday was a united one and, after their first win on the field, Conner was lifted by his delirious players.
The Northern Irishman had gone into this match knowing that anything but a win would spell the end of his stay at CAPS United.
And, while this laboured win against a newboy in the Premiership won’t erase the doubts about where CAPS United are going, it will bring a climate of relief to the dressing room.
And that is very important for a team that needs salvation.
A visitor to the National Sports Stadium yesterday would have been forgiven if he believed CAPS United had just been crowned league champions for the first time in seven years.
The celebrations were like a championship parade and suddenly Connor was the hero once again, saluted by the fans who had insulted him just a week ago, and carried shoulder high by his players in their moment of triumph.
Former Highlanders’ star, Rahman Kutsanzira, bundled home the priceless goal, three minutes after the restart, at the second time of asking after he had initially made a mess of his first contact with a goal at his mercy.
Kutsanzira was the star of this show, in a match played under extreme pressure, and played on a very difficult pitch with the rough surface at the giant stadium making it difficult for the players to control the ball or pass it around.
CAPS United could have won it by a mile but, in the end, noone really cared as the three points was all that mattered.
That all the players ran to their technical area, to celebrate with Connor after Kutsanzira had bundled the ball home, told the story of the close ties that have developed between the playing staff and their under-fire coach.
Sometimes a team needs such adversity to find itself and one gets a feeling that the challenges that Connor and his players have gone through have made them a closer unit.
Maybe, now that they have taken the monkey off their back, we can begin to see the players playing with a freedom that will make them a force once again.
Yesterday’s match never exploded but this was never a game that would rise to the heights because of the pressure of the occasion.
CAPS United dominated large portions of the match and wasted a glut of chances but, crucially, they got the goal that mattered and they have a right to believe that the dry season is now over.
Their next game, at the weekend, is against bottom club Blue Rangers.
Connor dedicated the victory to the club’s fans.
“It means a lot to the supporters. We will just enjoy the three points and won’t look at how wasteful we were in front of goals. It always feels good when you win a match,” said Connor.
CAPS United welfare manager, Joel Luphaphla, said the result will go along way in reviving the club’s fortunes.
“It was a morale booster for the players. We are very happy, we had to start somewhere and this is it,” said Luphahla.
“The players had done everything they could have been done and lifting the coach was their way of celebrating.
“A team like CAPS United should be winning by three or four against teams like Quelaton but results haven’t been coming.
“And today we had five or six players injured and we had to try some new combinations as you can see Rahman was playing behind the strikers.”
Quelaton coach, Farai Sibanda, said his charges were unlucky to go back empty-handed.
“The result did not reflect our performance on the pitch,” said Sibanda, whose team had just one tame shot on target in the second half. We created many chances but we could not utilise them and we got punished for that. The advantage for CAPS United is that they were always first on the ball.
“The referee contributed to the result this afternoon as his decisions were always in favour of CAPS United.
“But we hope to pick maximum points when we play Motor Action this weekend.”
The match began with the Green Machine missing chances as if on cue as Kutsanzira spurned a chance when he received a fine delivery from Evans Gwekwerere but delayed in pulling the trigger.
And a minute later, the midfielder latched onto a through ball and his shot went just wide.
The visitors also had two clear chances in the first period and could have been found the target first, before the quarter of an hour mark, when Mheli Sibanda, who was full of energy the whole afternoon, fired a long range free-kick that kissed the upright.
Goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda, who struggled with his judgment on the few occasions he was tested, had misjudged the shot.
After half an hour Quelaton’s Amani Makiwa was unlucky when he chipped over Sibanda, who had stormed off his line in a moment of madness, but somehow the ball missed the empty target.
But Kutsanzira calmed the home nerves just after the break, he appeared to have fluffed his lines when he found himself alone on the blind side but recovered to
scramble the ball home.
CAPS United midfielder, Marvel Samaneka, was lucky to escape a second yellow card, and expulsion, when the referee judged that he had dived when he was brought down in the box.
Already sitting on a yellow, Samaneka would have gone but was not booked and was replaced, after the injury he suffered in the foul, for a lucky escape.
Then Charles Chiutsa somehow missed to connect when free on the blind side after a fine cross from Kutsanzira.
Then Gwekwerere came face-to-face with the ‘keeper but his delicate chip was poor and it flew over the bar.
You always felt the football gods would punish CAPS United for the way they wasted chances and, in the very final minute, the visitors crafted a move down the left and when the cross came in, the home defence was beaten but, somehow, a routine header for the kill was missed.
No wonder they released all the emotions after the final whistle.
E. Sibanda, T. Kumbuyani, N. Mukumbi, D. Sengu, D. Walaza, T. Munyanduri, A. Nhongo, M. Samaneka(W. Pakamisa 63rd minute), C. Chiutsa(E. Chafungamoyo 57th minute), R. Kutsanzira, E. Gwekwerere.
W. Chiwetu, S. Dube, Z. Sibanda, J. Pongolani, E. Nkhulungo, I. Kutsanzira, G. Mleya, M. Sibanda(T. Mugumanya 76th minute), A. Makiwa, M. Moyo(F. Nkomozana 66th minute), M. Phiri.