MUTARE – If CAPS United’s win against Motor Action on Saturday was a statement of intent then the Green Machine is not going far in the $1 million Mbada Diamond Cup competition.
Their performance pumped their supporters’ stomachs full of butterflies the whole afternoon as they went on to win 7-6 in a marathon penalty shootout.
United’s progress through a penalty shootout even encourages their next opponents than declare them the “Cup Kings” as they were know in domestic football.
But by their coach Taurai Mangwiro’s own admission, the recent players’ strike over unpaid dues hung over their first half performance as the Motor Action’s youngsters took the game to United.
For a team in fifth position in the Castle Premiership log stands, playing this year’s weeping boys who anchor the log and only having managed 15 points in 21 outings, many expected Makepekepe to run riot on Saturday.
It was the outstanding individual exploits by their goal minder, Tafadzwa Dube that kept CAPS in this tie as the Mighty Bulls threatened to steamroll over them.
However, they were able to defend resolute to keep the Bulls at before going on to keep their nerves calm in the penalty shootout.
The win gives United a chance to redeem themselves from Saturday’s lacklustre performance in the quarterfinals.
CAPS usual top performers Rahman Kutsanzira, Hardlife Zvirekwi and Benson Maglas showed glimpses of their individual class but failed to combine it into a team effort.
The Mighty Bulls were literally camped in the Green Machine’s half and they survived only because they were playing against the league’s most blunt attack.
Mangwiro’s excuse that the industrial action by his players was the reason behind their poor performance may as well have been misplaced as Motor Action are in far more serious financial trouble.
The bulk of the seasoned Mighty Bulls players left the club during the mid-season transfer window and Eric Rosen resorted to bringing a bunch of greenhorns from Aces Youth Soccer Academy.
Without any clear turgid tactical clarity at play, CAPS struggled to break down this inexperienced Bulls’ side.
Unlike during the 1980s and 1990s when they were masters of knockout competitions earning themselves the “Cup Kings” mantle their performance was uninspiring.
It invoked nostalgic memories when they were knocked out of the Zifa Unity Cup by amateur side Highdon Raylton in 2002.
This time though, the Green machine survived the scare only after 18-year-old Mighty Bulls striker Emmanuel Mandiranga skied his spot kick over the bar to give United the win.
CAPS last lifted a meaningful trophy back in 2008 when they won the inaugural edition of the BancAbc Sup8r Cup by beating Lengthens at Rufaro Stadium.
Any talk of money being a factor in the game may as well pass for a face saving excuse because Mbada Diamonds is meeting all the running costs as well as the players' appearance fees.
Every player is guaranteed US$100 in appearance while the winners of the competition pocket US$130 000 and the big trophy.
So Caps just had a bad day in office.
In the second half they did well to slow down the Mighty Bulls before setting up camp in their half effectively meaning one side of the pitch saw the bulk of the action.
Glimpses of the CAPS that is trailing log leaders with only six points began to be visible but the struggle to stamp their authority against the Bulls’ youngsters has so far dampened any fear their next opponents were going to have.
When they finally won in the penalty shootout, it was fate’s favour to them as they now have another opportunity go back to find each other and come out with greater resolve.