RONALD Chitiyo may have endeared himself in the Caps United fans’ hearts forever, after putting on a polished performance to guide his side to the first round of the Confederation of African (Caf) Champions League with a hard-fought win over Lesotho Champions, Lioli, in the competition’s preliminary round second leg match at the National Sports Stadium yesterday. BY HENRY MHARA

Caps United (Zimbabwe) . . . (0) 2
Lioli (Lesotho) . . . . . . .(1) 1

The former Harare City and Dynamos playmaker was behind the first goal for the Green Machine, scored by Simba Sithole in the 51st minute to cancel out Tsepo Seturumane’s 20th minute goal.

He then decided the contest in the 55th minute with a low shot, to put his side through, where their reward is a clash against Democratic Republic of Congo giants, TP Mazembe in the next stage.

The Green Machine go through on a 2-1 aggregate after the first leg ended in a goalless draw.

Winning coach, Lloyd Chitembwe was a satisfied man, particularly with his boys’ spirited response to overcome the first half goal setback.

Had it not been the heroics of goalkeeper, Edmore Sibanda, who produced four great saves, Lioli could have easily ran away with the tie.

While Chitiyo would likely to get all the plaudits for his contribution yesterday, credit should also go to halftime substitute, Abbasi Amidu, who took the game to Lioli with his marauding runs, after coming on in place of Tafadzwa “Fire” Rusike.

“It was a good game. I thought we applied ourselves well,” Chitembwe said.

“There was a lot of urgency in our game today. The speed of thought and reaction was also evident. Most aspects of teamwork were there, unlike the way we played in Maseru. I’m very happy.

“The turning point was the substitution we made. Fire was good, but in terms of giving us the forward thrust that we wanted, he was not as explosive, as we would have wanted.

“But with Abbasi, he was good and each moment he was in possession, he looked very threatening.”

On his team’s next opponents, TP Mazembe, in a few weeks’ time, Chitembwe said: “We have to prepare well and focus on what we have to do. We still have a lot of things to work on. We are still in our preparation stage and hopefully by the time we play our fifth or sixth match, we will be much sharper and more competitive.”

Caps will prepare for the match by facing off with arch rivals Dynamos in the ZNA Charities Shield quarter-final at the weekend.

Chitembwe yesterday made three changes to the team that started in the first match, with Joel Ngodzo, who was dropped due a discrepancy on his documents, regaining his position in the first 11 at Kebby Kamhapa’s expense.

Simba Sithole and Tafadzwa Rusike were preferred ahead of Dominic Chungwa and Amidu.

Lioli, on the other hand, made just one change, Jeremea Kamela starting ahead of Motlalepula Mofolo.

The hosts, as expected, started the match on the front foot, but it was the visitors, who created the first chance after seven minutes, when a miscued clearance by Dennis Dauda landed invitingly for the dangerous Tumelo Khutlang, who shot at goal, but Sibanda blocked the effort.

Caps reacted with chances of their own moments later and Chitiyo came close in the 18th minute, when his cheeky lob bounced off the cross bar and Sithole fired wide from the rebound.

Chitembwe’s side were immediately punished for that glaring mistake at the other end, when Seturumane connected a cross from the right past Sibanda.

Chitiyo then shot straight at Lioli goalkeeper, Liteboho Mokhehle, after creating some pockets of space inside the box.

It almost got better for Lioli in the 27th minute, with Seturumane proving a handful on the left wing.

His dipping shot was threatening to nestle in the left top corner, but Sibanda did just enough to tip the ball over.

He again tried from a range two minutes later, but this time couldn’t find the target.

Sibanda kept his side in the match with another good save from a metre out, with his outstretched leg blocking Tsepo Lekhoaana’s shot.

Lioli were playing with confidence, and looked like they would score every time they surged forward.

The visitors took a deserved lead into the break, leaving the Harare giants with a lot of work to do in the second half.

Chitembwe reacted to his team’s tepid first half by introducing Amidu at the start of the second stanza, as the home side searched for the equaliser and after Sithole somehow hit the crossbar after being gifted possession from a defensive mix up in the 46th minute.

The breakthrough eventually arrived minutes later.

Chitiyo’s pass over the top was neatly brought down by Sithole, who reacted quicker to the ball than the goalkeeper to run clear on goal and slotted into an empty net.

Before the celebrations had died down in the stands, the two Caps United forwards combined once again, with roles reversed this time as Sithole’s intended shot at goal was intercepted by Chitiyo, who rounded off the keeper before hitting the back of the net to complete the turnaround.

Caps United: E Sibanda, V Musarurwa, R Pfumbidzai, J Jangano, D Dauda, D Chafa, N Ngodzo (K Kamhapa, 55′), T Rusike (A Amidu, 46′), R Chitiyo (K Nyamupfukudza, 88′), P Bhamusi, S Sithole.

Lioli: L Mokhehle, M Moremoholo, T Koetle, K Tseka, J Kamela, B Moletsane, S Ramoseka, T Seturumane, T Lekhooana, B Sello, T Khutlang (D Modirwa, 86′).

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