CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe has played down his team’s troubled week, which saw them losing two matches, both in the Independence Trophy tournament, in a space of just three days.BY HENRY MHARA
The Green Machine were beaten 1-0 by Dynamos in the Independence Trophy semi-final on Sunday, before losing to FC Platinum by a similar scoreline in the tournament’s third and fourth place play-off two days later.
The two defeats were the league champions’ first in the eight competitive matches they have played across all competitions so far this season.
They won the ZNA Charities Shield after beating Dynamos and Highlanders in the semi-final and final respectively and also qualified for the Caf Champions League group stages, at the expense of Lioli of Lesotho and then Democratic Republic of Congo giants TP Mazembe.
In the league, Chitembwe’s men have dropped just two points in their opening two matches.
Asked yesterday if the two defeats in the recent tournament were of any concern to him ahead of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match against Tsholotsho at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, Chitembwe said he did not consider the losses as serious setbacks, as his team had bigger and better targets in mind.
“I’m not looking at those (defeats) because in terms of our priorities, I don’t think those games, including the charity game, were amongst what we desire to have this season.
“We set our targets for the Champions League as well as the domestic league, and not necessarily in these invitational tournaments. Winning league games as well as a good run in the Champions League is where our focus and targets lie,” he said at the team’s weekly Press conference.
Chitembwe made wholesale changes to the squad that featured in the Champions League and the opening rounds of the domestic league when they played FC Platinum in the Independence Trophy third and fourth place play-off.
“We will play not less than 60 games in less than nine months, which is huge, compared to the rest of the teams who are going to play a maximum of 32 games. We have to be sensible in terms of managing these games. Not all of the best players are going to play in all those matches, so we need to manage this kind of situation, but I’m happy with what I saw and I’m sure we have a good team that can compete.
This is the reason we qualified for the group stage of the Champions League. It was not by fluke, or by chance. Neither was it by coincidence, we really meant to achieve what we have achieved.”
Concerns have also been raised over the squad’s discipline after the team picked three red cards in as many matches, but Chitembwe is undisturbed.
Turning to the weekend’s match, Chitembwe is expecting a tough encounter despite dominating the fixture last year, where his team completed a double over Tsholotsho.
“All the Premiership games are never easy. Last year we won, but it wasn’t easy and we don’t expect them to be any easier,” he said.
Ahead of the match, the home side has been boosted by the news of goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda’s return to full fitness.
The big goalkeeper missed the team’s last three matches with an injury, but has been certified fit and should return to the starting line-up on Sunday.
Midfielder, Moses Muchenje, defender Zvikomborero Bizeki and striker Leonard Tsipa also had niggles in the past weeks, but they have been passed fit as well.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Matchday 4 fixtures
Today: Black Rhinos v Bantu Rovers (National Sports Stadium)
Tomorrow: Bulawayo City v FC Platinum (Barbourfields), How Mine v Chapungu (Luveve), Yadah v Ngezi Platinum (National Sports Stadium).
Sunday: Triangle v Chicken Inn (Gibbo), Hwange v Dynamos (Colliery), Caps United v Tsholotsho (National Sports Stadium), Highlanders v ZPC Kariba (Barbourfields), Shabanie Mine v Harare City (Maglas)