|Guthrie Zhokinyi back|
|Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:39|
AFTER being forced to sit out the Champions League campaign because of a Confederation of African Football suspension, tough-tackling defender Guthrie Zhokinyi returns to continental club action boosting the Dynamos rearguard ahead of their Confederation Cup against Inter Clube at Rufaro on Sunday.
Dynamos will host seasoned Angolan campaigners Inter Clube in a Confederation Cup third round, first leg tie needing to secure a comfortable win that could set them on the path to the competition’s group stage.
Zhokinyi missed out on Dynamos’ failed Champions League campaign as he had been slapped with a four-match ban by Caf for offences committed in last year’s tournament.
The suspension meant that the Zimbabwe international missed out on the Champions League first round assignment against Liga Muculmana of Mozambique as well as the second round clashes against holders Esperance of Tunisia.
Zhokinyi’s suspension followed his expulsion in a 2011 Champions League first round, second leg encounter against MC Alger in Algeria.
Dynamos carrying what had appeared a healthy 4-1 first leg lead bowed out of the competition after falling 3-0 in Algeria in controversial circumstances in which they finished with nine men following Archford Gutu and Zhokinyi’s expulsions.
Zhokinyi was adjudged to have fouled a MC Alger forward and conceded a 73rd minute penalty, with the offence also earning him a straight red card, while the Algerians converted the spot kick for their second goal on the night.
While Gutu who has since moved on to the European stage where he is now playing for FF Kalmar in Sweden was not affected by the suspensions, Zhokinyi bore the brunt of the Caf penalties with the four-match ban effectively ruling him out of Dynamos’ Champions League games this year.
But the fact that teams, which fall at the second round stage of the Champions League proceed to the third round of the second tier Confederation Cup, gave Zhokinyi a window to, at least play, the continental club game before year-end. The 29-year-old centre-back now returns into the heart of the DeMbare rearguard where he is expected to partner young defender Partson Jaure.
His return is also timely given questions hanging over the match fitness of another experienced defender and skipper George Magariro, who has reportedly been weighed down by personal problems, which forced him to spend some time in his home town of Masvingo.
Zhokinyi also underlined his significance to the Dynamos aspirations when he powered home a late free-kick that gave the Glamour Boys a confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Gunners in a Premiership tie at Lafarge last Sunday.
The defender revealed his happiness at returning to continental club duties and was upbeat about Dynamos’ chances of knocking out Inter Clube.
“I am just happy to be back, it was very painful to see the team lose in the Champions League while watching from the terraces. I just had to accept the Caf decision.
“I am not saying Dynamos would not have lost if I had played but I would have wanted to be part of the team and do my part to try and help.
“Now that I am back I have another chance to use my experience and try to help the team in the Confederation Cup and it always nice to play continental football.
After what happened with Esperance we know that we cannot afford to relax when playing in Africa because you can easily get punished,’’ Zhokinyi said.
Zhokinyi also spoke about his wonder goal against Gunners and said confidence had driven him into taking the free-kick that resulted in Dynamos’ winner three minutes from time.
“As a senior player I had to take responsibility.
Time had run out when we won the free kick but I was confident that if I strike the ball well it would go in.
Of course it needed a bit of guts because it is the same as taking a penalty in the dying minutes so it was a crucial moment for me and for the team since we were desperate for a win,’’ Zhokinyi said.
Zhokinyi, however, said DeMbare had put behind them the disappointment of the mid-week defeat by Harare City and the joy of the Gunners victory in order to “fully focus on Inter Clube’’.
“Every match is a new game. I don’t know much about Inter Clube because I only watched one or two of their games when they played Orlando Pirates and knocked them out of the Champions League . . . I noticed that they play a physical game but we just have to make sure we do not concede at home,’’ said Zhokinyi.
Zhokinyi’s availability for selection in the Confederation Cup is also a welcome a relief for under-pressure coach Callisto Pasuwa, who will have to make do without defensive midfielder Devon Chafa for Sunday’s game.
Chafa is suspended for picking up two yellow cards in the matches against Liga Muculmana and Esperance.
Pasuwa has had the misfortune of having a number of key players literally “walking wounded’’ with the latest casualties being veteran forward Murape Murape and Rodreck Mutuma.
The poor condition of the training ground which DeMbare use at Raylton Sports Club — probably the worst by any of the clubs playing in the tournament — has not helped their cause either as it has contributed to a number of injuries during training.
That the Dynamos camp remains volatile amid revelations that a shadow technical crew had already been appointed to take over from Pasuwa and his lieutenants Tonderai Ndiraya, Tichaona Diya and team manager Richard Chihoro, also remains a serious cause for concern.
In fact Pasuwa could have easily been shown the door last week but club chairman Kenny Mubaiwa and secretary-general Ray Kazembe stood their ground and staved off pressure from within their executive committee and a militant section of the Dynamos fans to wield the axe on the coach after their surprise 1-0 defeat by Harare City.
Pasuwa yesterday, however, chose to focus more on the assignment against Inter Clube and the boost that the return of Zambian midfielder Arthur Kaseloke and more importantly Zhokinyi, brings to his selection options.
“I think his (Zhokinyi’s) return will make our defence solid. When we played in Tunisia we had problems with aerial balls and we missed someone like him.
“Guthrie also commands and organises the defence very well. We have a good youngster like Partson (Jaure) but he needs someone who can always give him guidance on the pitch.
“We have also been rocked by injuries with players like Leo, Makopa, Ocean Mushure, Wonder Sithole and Murape Murape on the injury list.
“Mutuma also picked a knock against Gunners so we will have to assess how all those guys train this week.
“I heard that Inter Clube are an organised, rich and professional side. They even have some Brazilians (five) in their team and it is not a side to underestimate. We need to prepare very well in everything that we do and fully utilise home advantage,’’ Pasuwa said.
The Dynamos coach said his charges had since “picked valuable lessons’’ from their 6-0 mauling by Esperance in Tunis, which was also DeMbare’s heaviest loss in the Champions League.
“We have learnt a lot from what happened in Tunis and that should help us this time around.
The fact that that winning this round will get us a place in the mini-league is also strong motivation for the guys to do well,’’ Pasuwa said.
Dynamos will also be hoping that star midfielder Denver Mukamba who is undergoing trials at Pretoria University will be back in time and fit to take his place in the battle against the Angolans.