CAPS United’s chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League is in great jeopardy after they produced a shocking first-half performance to lose to visiting Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya in the competition’s group B match at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
CAPS United (Zimbabwe) . . . . . . (0) 2
AL Ahly Tripoli (Libya) . . . . . . (3) 4
BY HENRY MHARA
A horrible opening 25 minutes of the match saw the Green Machine giving away a 16th minute penalty converted by Sameh Derballi and Salem Ablo added the advantage four minutes later before Muaid Ali made it three before the half-hour mark.
Derballi scored his second of the match in the 81st minute and Caps United got their consolation goals through a converted penalty by Ronald Pfumbidzai on 86 minutes and a header by captain Hardlife Zvirekwi at the death.
The defeat, which was the heaviest by a Zim club in a Caf Champions League at home, saw Caps United remaining on three points from their opening three Group B matches, while Tripoli now have four. Other group members Zamalek of Egypt and USM Alger of Algeria were set to play last night.
Caps United coach Lloyd Chitembwe, who was forced to make some changes to his team owing to a number of injuries, said: “I’m very disappointed with the result, but I’m sure we also learnt some lessons. Competition is a measurement of preparation and I think we didn’t prepare as much as we should have considering quite a number of our players were out injured. When you lose some of your best players for a game of this magnitude, you lose some bit of cohesion.”
Ahli coach Talaat Youssef, whose side were the only winless team in the group before yesterday’s match, said he was happy with the result and had started preparations for the return match against Caps United on June 21.
The hosts were forced to make some changes to their line-up from the team that impressively beat USM Alger last week with Dennis Dauda suspended, while Edmore Sibanda aggravated an injury during the warm-up and was removed from the team.
With Dauda out, right-back Zvirekwi was moved to the centre of the defence to partner Justice Jangano with Kudzai Nyamupfukudza slotting in the right wingback position. Jorum Muchambo, who was also not 100% fit, replaced Sibanda.
It was those changes at the back that proved costly for Chitembwe’s men with his defenders looking uncomfortable especially Jangano, who was at fault for three of the four goals.
Just when the long-bearded defender had looked like establishing himself alongside Dauda in previous matches, he produced a string of costly moments.
He needlessly gave away a free-kick in a dangerous area in the 14th minute, but went unpunished.
When the Libyans came back attacking a minute later, Jangano flew into a tackle, bringing down Mohamed Anis on the byline, the striker posing no immediate danger.
Derbali stepped up to press the ball past Muchambo and four minutes later, Jangano was part of a collective disaster when the defenders allowed Anis space inside the box to set up Ablo, who finished off at the far post to double Tripoli’s advantage.
Five minutes later, Jangano’s lack of awareness allowed Salem to sneak behind him to meet a flick following a hopeful goal kick from goalkeeper Mohammed Nashnoush and the skilful number 10 raced clear to beat Muchambo, who somehow also hesitated to come out to clear the danger.
The afternoon went from bad to worse for Jangano when he missed his team’s best chance of the first half to pull a goal back, after he got to the end of a Moses Muchenje corner kick at the back post, but headed wide with no man marking him.
Caps started the second half the same way they had began the first, controlling possession, but running out of ideas every time they reached the final third.
After Pfumbidzai had hit the bar with a header, the hosts were further pegged back when Derbali made it four with his second of the match. The right-back cut inside from the right wing to beat Muchambo with a diagonal shot.
Caps were then awarded a penalty when a defender was adjudged to have handled the ball from a cross and Pfumbidzai converted comfortably.
Zvirekwi flashed a header past Nashnoush as Chitembwe’s men found some consolation.
Caps United: J Muchambo, K Nyamupfukudza (C Mudzambwa, 46′), H Zvirekwi, R Pfumbidzai, J Jangano, D Chafa, M Muchenje, P Bhamusi, R Chitiyo, T Rusike (D Chungwa, 60′), A Amidu
Al Ahly Tripoli: M Fathi, A Salam, S Derbali, M Aleyat, M Aboud, V Mabide, A Khalleffah, M Yones, M Salem (Z Salem, 85′), A Ablo (E Mohammed, 60′), A Mohamed (S Saeid, 82′)