HARARE – Just like in the previous round against Lioli FC, Edmore Sibanda was the CAPS United hero yesterday against DR Congo side TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi.
The Makepekepe goalkeeper pulled off some brilliant saves at the Stade TP Mazembe to help his side emerge with a draw and a precious away goal in the African Champions League final round qualifier.
CAPS now have a good chance of progressing to the group stages of the competition as a goalless draw in the second leg this Sunday at the National Sports Stadium is good enough.
The Zimbabwean champions got off to the best possible start when forward Abbas Amidu scored just after 44 seconds.
Straight from the kick-off, Makepekepe ventured forward and caught the home side cold with Amidu firing a low shot that took a wicked deflection off defender Salif Coulibaly before wrong- footing goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo.
The home side was shell-shocked by the quick start from the visitors but slowly regained control of the game.
Mazembe were enjoying a lot of room on the right channel where Solomon Asante was getting the better of Valentine Musarurwa, who was deputising for injured regular left back Ronald Pfumbidzai.
The Ghanaian winger was involved in the home side’s equaliser when he was released on the right side before firing a low shot into the box in the 12th minute.
The normally assured Sibanda made a meal of the shot when he failed to hold onto the ball which fell kindly for Rainford Kalaba to tap into an empty net.
It was an embarrassing moment for the Makepekepe goalkeeper as he should have held onto the shot from Asante.
To his credit, Sibanda regained his composure and went on to star in the remainder of the game as Mazembe pressed on for the winning goal.
In the 17th minute, Asante broke free again on the right side and sent in a delightful low cross into the box which was met by Kalaba.
The Mazembe captain, who thought he had scored his second, watched in disbelief as Sibanda used his legs to clear the ball to safety.
Moments later, Makepekepe midfielder Devon Chafa lost possession in his own half allowing the home side to attack on the counter.
Sibanda was again called into action as he saved the day for his side.
At that stage, the Ravens now smelt blood and attacked the Makepekepe goal in numbers.
Coulibaly came close to giving the home side the lead when he headed a free kick from Kalaba against the upright with Sibanda a mere spectator.
There was a period in that opening half when it was just one way traffic and it seemed like it was just a match between Sibanda and the Mazembe forwards.
Just before half time, the CAPS defenders were caught sleeping by a quick Mazembe free kick which was played into the box to release Asante.
Luckily for the visitors, Sibanda was having an inspired afternoon as he dived to his right to save the shot from the Mazembe forward.
The home side created another good chance to take the lead into the break when Asante again broke free on the right before sending in another good delivery into the box.
With the entire CAPS defence pivoting towards the near post, the ball fell to Kalaba, who had delayed his run into the box.
Surprisingly, the Zambian international shot over the bar from close range as United survived another scare.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first period, as Mazembe enjoyed all the possession while CAPS held a deep line in their own half.
Sibanda was called upon to make good saves at regular intervals as the home side threw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
As time went on, Mazembe coach Thierry Froger brought on his side’s talisman Tresor Mputu and pulled out Kalaba.
Coulibaly was also pushed forward from his centre back position to play as a centre striker.
Mazembe were now playing the long ball up front hoping the big Malian defender would unsettle the Makepekepe defence.
Dennis Dauda and Justice Jangano held their own against the physical Coulibaly in those dying moments of the game.
However, there was one moment when the makeshift Mazembe striker won the aerial duel against Dauda but Sibanda pulled off a breathtaking dive to save the header.
Makepekepe were able to hold on for a famous draw that now puts them in a good position to qualify for the group stages of the competition for the first time in the club’s history.