HARARE – CAPS United put in a pathetic first half performance during yesterday’s humiliating defeat 2-4 to Al –Ahli Tripoli to leave their chances of qualifying for the African Champions League quarter-finals slim.
Having started their campaign with a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Egyptian giants Zamalek last month, the Green Machine appeared to have resurrected their hopes of making it to the knockout stages with a home victory over Algerian side USM Alger 2-1 a fortnight ago.
But a brace by Sameh Derbali and a goal each by man-of-the-match Muaid Salam and Salem Ablo left the Green Machine with a mammoth task of progressing to the next round with three matches still to play.
Even late goals by defenders Ronald Pfumbidzai and Hardlife Zvirekwi were not enough as the Green Machine remained stuck on three points after three matches.
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe felt the heavy defeat was a result of congested fixture as they are fighting from two fronts both in Africa and on the local scene.
“Rules are rules, we are only allowed to register 25 players. I am sure it has a lot to do with the number of games we have played within the short space of time,” Chitembwe said.
“We are playing three games in less than five days so I think it’s now showing and these are the repercussions.”
Chitembwe also noted that their matters were made worse by several injuries to key players in the run up to yesterday’s game.
Goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda had briefly trained this week and was included in the starting XI but aggravated his injury during the warm-up before the game.
In the end, United had to make an 11th hour change by bringing in Jorum Muchambo into the starting XI.
Regular defender Dennis Dauda also missed the match forcing Chitembwe to start with a makeshift centre back pairing of Zvirekwi and Justice Jangano.
“We are not looking for excuses, we are very proud of our achievements and no one can take that away from us but the honest truth is when you lose some of your best players in games of this magnitude, you risk losing a lot of cohesion in the team,” Chitembwe said.
“I’m sure we lost cohesion and in the first 20-30 minutes, I am sure we conceded in my view goals that we could have avoided and once you concede that way, it will be very difficult to come back.
He added: “Basically I am very disappointed with the result but I am sure we learnt some lessons along the way.
“It’s good to something but like they have always say that competition is a measurement of preparation. And this game we didn’t prepare as much as we should have considering the fact that quite a number of our players were out injured.”
It was always difficult afternoon for the home side as they went behind in the 16th minute after Jangano had brought down Ahli forward Ablo inside the box.
Derbali stepped up to take the spot kick and sent Muchambo the wrong way from 12 yards out.
The visitors were menacing in attack every time they came forward with Salam running rings around the bamboozled Makepekepe defence.
Ahli did not wait long to increase their lead as Ablo scored the visitors’ second in the 20th minute with a neat finish inside the box after some poor marking by the Makepekepe defence.
After having been the Green Machine tormentor in chief, Salam finally got onto the score sheet five minutes later when he raced past the home defence to side foot a low finish past Muchambo.
Once again it was poor marking from the Makepekepe defence as the goal came from a route one clearance by Ahli goalkeeper Mohamed Fathi.
Although United came back a much stronger side in the second half as they created a couple of chances, it was the visitors however, who went on to get the fourth nine minutes from full time when Derbali completed his brace.
Makepekepe pulled one back four minutes from full time when Pfumbidzai converted from the penalty spot after an Ahli defender had handled inside the box.
Zvirekwi got the second after heading home a Pfumbidzai cross from the left side right on 90 minutes.
CAPS United: Jorum Muchambo, Hardlife Zvi0rekwi, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Justice Jangano, Devon Chafa, Moses Muchenje, Phinias Bamusi, Ronald Chitiyo, Abbas Amidu, Tafadzwa Rusike, Kudzai Nyamupfukudza
Al-Ahli Tripoli: Mohamed Fathi, Sameh Derbali, Vivien Mabide, Muadi Salem Ali, Ali Ramdan Salam, Mohamed Aleyat, Salem Ablo, Abdulrhman Ramad, Anis Mohamed, Mohamed Yones, Mouad Aboud.