CAPS UNITED (Zim) . . . .(1) 2
USM ALGER (Algeria) . . .(0) 1
CAPS United produced a breathtaking performance to shock visiting USM Alger in a Caf Champions League Group B football match at the National Sports Stadium yesterday, a victory that breathed life into the Green Machine’s campaign.
BY HENRY MHARA
Little Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo was the star of the show, netting a brace that handed the Zimbabwean champions their first three points of the campaign, following their 2-0 defeat away to Egyptians giants, Zamalek in their group
The midfielder scored two brilliant goals, expertly curling the ball home 16 minutes into the match for the opener, before rolling the ball into the far post for the winner, nine minutes from time after Ayoub Abdellaoui had levelled matters in the 67th minute.
The result saw Caps United moving into second place in Group B with three points, one behind leaders Zamalek, who are top of the pile, following their goalless draw with Libyan side Al Ahly Tripoli.
USM Alger, who started the second round of matches top of the group, dropped to third on the standings with three points, behind Caps United on a head-to-head record, while the Libyans anchor the log with just a point.
Caps United coach, Lloyd Chitembwe was left impressed by the five-star performance from his side, not seen in a long time on these shores by a local club in international competitions.
He felt the win would restore confidence in the team going forward in the competition, with two home matches against Zamalek and Al Ahly Tripoli and two away fixtures in Algiers and Tripoli still to come.
“We were looking for a very good result and I’m happy that we got the result that we wanted,” he said.
“We’re going to take it a game at a time because we know we still have more difficult games coming, but I’m very happy with this result. Today’s result was as a result of determination and desire by the team.”
USM Alger coach, Paul Put acknowledged that their opponents were more clinical than his side, who started slowly, but showed more aggression as soon as they went behind.
“We started the game well and managed to control it in the first minutes, but we wasted a lot of chances,” he said.
“The real difference was the efficiency of Caps United, who managed to score two goals. Caps United have a lot of quality and they gave a really good performance against Zamalek.
“I warned my players, but it seems they did not heed it. In the first half, we left too many spaces for the opponents. We were not really in the game and, like I said, the efficiency of Caps United made the difference.”
Chitembwe had asked for some attacking flair from his side before the match, and that is exactly what he got, as his men responded in style, taking the game to their more fancied opponents from the first whistle.
Their early dominance was rewarded when Chitiyo’s bender from close range curled inside the left post, past Alger keeper, Mohamed Zemmamouche.
It was the returning Tafadzwa “Fire” Rusike, though, who did most of the hard work for the goal, turning his marker brilliantly, before exploiting the space ahead of him to open fire, but his shot was blocked.
The ball fell invitingly for Rooney, who did the rest.
The visitors sought an immediate response, but found the Caps United defence unyielding.
The hosts’ goalkeeper, Edmore Sibanda, was culpable for the goals conceded against Zamalek and he almost gifted Alger a way back into the match when he was somehow beaten to a high ball, but was bailed out by Devon Chafa, who raced to the goal line to clear the danger.
Abbasi Amidu thought he had doubled his side’s advantage when he connected home a Ronald Pfumbidzai cross, but referee Thierry Nkururiziza of Burundi, ruled the effort off for offside.
The Algerians made a strong finish to the first half and could have equalised, but Darfalou’s fierce shot was saved into the upright post by Sibanda, who had hesitated to come and collect the ball.
But after Abdellaoui had equalised just after the hour mark and had appeared to secure a valuable draw for his side, Rooney rose to the occasion, and produced his magic, firing a low shot past the goalkeeper whose attempted save helped the ball into the nets.
Caps United: E Sibanda, J Jangano, D Dauda, H Zvirekwi (K Nyamupfukudza, 75’), R Pfumbidzai, D Chafa, M Muchenje, R Chitiyo, T Rusike, P Bhamusi, A Amidu
USM Alger: M Zemmamouche, M Meftah, F Chafal, A Abdellaoui, T Zeghdane (M Benkhemassa), A Benguit, H Koudri, K Beldjilali, A Meziane, C Andriamahitsinoro, O Darfalou (M Benkablia, 57’)