ABBAS Amidu was the destroyer-in-chief, scoring a memorable brace, as Zimbabwe champions Caps United overpowered five-time African champions, Zamalek to bounce back into contention for a quarter-final place.
Caps UNITED…. (1) 3
Zamalek………. (1) 1
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The victory lifted Caps United to third on the Group B standings with six points, with Zamalek dropping down to anchor the group still on five points, while USM Alger and Al Ahli Tripoli are tied on eight points each after sharing the spoils earlier on Saturday.
The Green Machine now need to win their remaining Group B match against USM Algier away next weekend by any margin to go through to the last eight of the prestigious tournament regardless of the outcome of the other clash between Ali Tripoli and Zamalek.
After a turbulent week in which Caps United suffered a 4-2 defeat to Al Ahly Tripoli, which left them on the brink, and another defeat to Yadah FC in midweek, which saw coach, Lloyd Chitembwe emotionally telling reporters he felt his efforts were not matching the expectations of the club, and could be forced to reconsider his future, the Green Machine responded in emphatic fashion.
The local champions were dominant from the opening quarter, hooking wonderful crosses into the Zamalek goal area.
Zamalek goalkeeper, Ahmed El-Shennawy, came off his line to gather Ronald Chitiyo’s cross, before punching away Ronald Pfumbidzai’s curling corner-kick.
The visitors, however, did threaten in the 21st minute, when Nigerian striker, Stanley Ohawuchi forced Caps keeper, Prosper Chigumba into a low save, with a shot from outside the box.
But vice-captain, Pfumbidzai pounced from close range and he made it 1-0 to Caps with a low shot in the 31st minute.
It was nearly 2-0 to Caps in the 40th minute, but El-Shennawy made a great save to deny Chitiyo at the near-post following a good move by Caps United.
Ohawuchi levelled matters three minutes later, when he beat Chigumba from a one-on-one situation to make it 1-1 profiting from a mistake by defender, Carlton Munzambwa.
Amidu could have restore Caps United’s lead 11 minutes after the restart, but El-Shennawy produced a fine save to deny him.
Zamalek coach, Agusto Inacio made the second change of the game in the 65th minute – introducing Salah Rico, as the visitors looked to regain control of the match.
The Green Machine restored their lead 10 minutes later, when Amidu controlled the ball in the Zamalek box, before scoring to make it 2-1. Zamalek, though were the dominant side in the closing stages with second-half, with substitute Mostafa Fathi’s hopeful long-range drive saved by Chigumba.
But they were left vulnerable at the back and Amidu punished them on the counter, beating the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation to sew up the contest. Caps United assistant coach, Fungai Kwashi was pleased with the performance.
“Great result for Caps United. We need a win and probably this is one of the biggest games of the year. I have said it before and I keep saying it: Chitembwe is one of the best coaches we have in the country, in Africa and in the world. The guys were there for each other. They were fighting for each other and in our next match we have to go for the three points, no excuses,” he said.