MUTARE – For more than 90 minutes in the searing heat of Mutare on Saturday, 10 000 fans were treated to a brand of attacking football based on fast passing interchanges, well-received by a good-natured crowd.
The entertaining offensive style in the Mbada Diamonds Cup first round tie was not from favourites and eventual winners CAPS United, but instead, it was a group of academy boys from their opponents Motor Action, who left the crowd spellbound at Sakubva Stadium.
Rooted at the bottom of the log in the Castle Premiership, Motor Action came agonisingly close to post the biggest shock of the tournament so far, and for those who love a good story among the neutrals inside Sakubva, it was slightly disappointment that the Mighty Bulls didn’t get the victory their eye-catching performance thoroughly deserved.
Faced with serious cash-flow problems, Motor Action owner Eric Rosen recruited several youngsters from Harare’s famed Aces Youth Academy in the June mid-season transfer window following a mass desertion of experienced players in the mid-year.
It might be too late for the youngsters to save the former champions from relegation in the league, but Saturday’s performance was truly a wonderful exhibition of the fruits of the country’s grassroots football development in general, and the excellent work in particular being done by Aces co-directors Marc Duvillard and Nigel Munyati together with their team of dedicated coaches.
Coached by Prince Matore at Motor Action following the resignation of Joey Antipas two weeks ago, the young lads passed the ball around with a confidence beyond their young years, playing with a style of football that has become synonymous with Aces products of recent years, most of whom core members of the current Zimbabwe national side.
While CAPS won the physical battle, Motor Action played the ball from the back, little by little, knocking the ball around fairly effectively. They also attacked from the wings many times, creating several opportunities and often finding impressive CAPS keeper Tafadzwa Dube in top form.
Perhaps their weakest link was the lack of aggressive upfront, and you get a feeling that with a good, old-fashioned centre forward display from one of their players, they would have avoided the penalty shootout lottery and seal the game in regulation time.
This is an area academies need to look at. Playing entertaining attacking football is good for the eyes, but goals win you games.
Credit to them, they did not let the disappointment of failing to wrap up the game take away their confidence, and that they took the shootout down to sudden death speaks volume of their technical ability.
The penalties were taken expertly, quite clearly a result of dozen of hours in the training field.
As the thousands of Sakubva neutrals who slightly outnumbered the vociferous CAPS faithful left the ground slightly disappointed, there was a fair degree of contentment of value for money for their $1 subsidized tickets.