The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Grand Battlefieds in Mbada Semis

CAPS United legend, Brenna Msiska, has challenged the players to rise and be counted by beating rivals Dynamos in their blockbuster Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final at Barbourfields tomorrow afternoon. The former CAPS United goalkeeper believes his team has the capacity to upset their rivals with one thunderous swing that could settle their heavyweight contest on neutral soil.

Now an assistant coach at the club, the Green Machine feels their rivals cannot monopolise success and win the two big trophies, for the second year running, while CAPS United end the season with nothing.

Yesterday, the Green Machine, who arrived in Bulawayo on Thursday night, trained at White City as they intensify their preparations against DeMbare.

"It's unfortunate we were derailed by Motor Action last weekend but morale is still high and we are playing well," said Msiska.

"It is now up to the players to continue from where they left and play this match and win. This game means a lot to us and we should win and please our fans.

"Playing away, our chances are 50-50 and maybe we can have a plus with Highlanders supporting us as obviously they would want to see Dynamos losing.

"For us it is very important that we win this match and Dynamos already have one foot in the league and they cannot put two feet into glory."

Msiska said the Glamour Boys have been playing well but is confident that in such knockout matches, things can change very quickly.

"Dynamos have been playing well and collecting points," said Msiska.

"They also got all the points against us but now we are playing a Cup game.

"We are meeting once and the match has to be decided tomorrow afternoon. We have to work extra hard tomorrow and if we win this match then we will be confident that the Cup is ours because during our days whenever we would reach this stage we would be assured of the trophy."

CAPS United stand-in gaffer Mkhupali "Mr Cooper" Masuku is likely not to make many changes to the team which has been playing of late.

Goalkeeper Itai Chiwara, who suffered his defeat in goals for the Green Machine last weekend when he retrieved two goals from the nets against the Mighty Bulls, will be in goals.

Roving left back Asani Nhongo returns to the fold on the flank, replacing Arnold Chivheya, who played against Motor Action.

In the heart of defence, Blessing Zabula will be partnered by Tawanda "Rambo" Munyanduri who has been carrying a knock but appears to have recovered and is set to feature in the match.

Skipper Tapuwa Kumbuyani will be operating from the right.

And upfront, the gaffer is likely to go with Leonard Fiyado and Nqobile Mpala as he seeks to breach the defence of DeMbare led by the outstanding Partson Jaure.

Former Warriors' striker, Shingi Kawondera, is also back into the team's fold and may be thrown into the fray later in the match although his experience makes it tempting to start with him.

Masuku, who has revealed that he is missing coach Taurai Mangwiro who is banned from football, says life has to go on and would want to win the Cup for his boss.

Mangwiro chose Masuku, when he was appointed CAPS United coach, as the right man to help him and the dynamic young duo appeared to have struck a good combination as good results started coming.

CAPS United are backing Mangwiro and they became the first team to pay the US$6 000 appeal fine for their coach yesterday.

Top Harare lawyer, Tinofara Hove, who is one of the leading legal brains who have been involved in domestic football for some time now, is representing Mangwiro.

"We are treating it jut like any other match, we have been doing well and we are looking forward to another good game," said Masuku.

"We will stick to our game plan and we are not worried about how Dynamos have been doing and we will just play our game."

CAPS United have blamed Mangwiro's last-minute ban last week, which came on the eve of their match against Motor Action, for affecting their players after their entire dressing room burst into tears when the coach came to address the players.

The Green Machine believe this badly unsettled their players and they could not recover against the Mighty Bulls.

The irony of it all is that Motor Action continued to enjoy the services of their coach, Joey Antipas, even though he is set to be banned in the next batch of sanctions to be announced by Zifa.

For some CAPS United fans, such selective application of punishment is tantamount to having a direct influence in the outcome of matches, and there were many unhappy faces in their camp last Saturday at Rufaro.

But this is the big one, the winner takes everything, and CAPS United have a chance to either swim or sink and, if you ask Msiska, the stage is set for their grand celebrations in the City of Kings.

CAPS United, too, have the right to blow their horns because they have won four league titles and, after the turn of the millennium, have as many titles (two) and their biggest rivals, Dynamos.

They will tell us, too, of the superstars who graced their dressing room over the years and left lasting images on the field, players like Joel Shambo, Stanley Ndunduma, Shacky Tauro, Friday Phiri, Joe Mugabe, Stewart Murisa and Alois Bunjira.

There is so much to write about DeMbare and Makepekepe, two teams that have won virtually everything that is on offer, but tomorrow the giants move into unchartered waters when they clash, for the first time, on the neutral soil of Barbourfields.

The stadium in the City of Kings is the fortress of Highlanders, the other member of the Big Three Clubs in the country, and it has never hosted a showdown between DeMbare and Makepekepe.

"It's a unique game because it has never happened before for the two giants to play at Barbourfields and it should turn into a very special occasion for the players and the fans," said former CAPS United ace, Alois Bunjira, who is now a sports broadcaster with ZiFM.

"The atmosphere should be electric out there and, hopefully, it will be a good game because that is what the fans really want.

"The derby always brings something special and it's good that the people of Bulawayo will get a chance to see such a very important game right on their doorsteps."

DeMbare have dominated their meetings with their old rivals in recent years, at times making a mockery of their rivalry as was the case when the two giants met in their last league tie at the National Sports Stadium where the Glamour Boys raced to a comfortable 3-0 lead.

The Green Machine were already 0-2 down at the interval, on home turf, and their directors Twine Phiri and Farai Jere were so upset by the team's pathetic show they left their seats, at the break, to read the Riot Act on their players.

Inevitably, it triggered changes within their playing staff and big 'keeper, Edmore Sibanda, centreback David Sengu and midfielder Marvel Samaneka were off-loaded as the directors battled to stem the crisis and win back control of the dressing room.

As if on cue, the results started improving and CAPS United were doing very well until their camp was shaken last Friday by the 10-year ban imposed on their coach, Taurai Mangwiro, for the part he allegedly played in the Asiagate scandal.

While their league form remains shaky, there has been something about their run in the Mbada Diamonds Cup which has sent their fans going down memory lane to the time when CAPS United were the Cup Kings.

They were impressive in their 1-0 win over Motor Action on a bumpy Potato Field pitch before doing even better, in the quarter-finals, when they beat Buffaloes 2-0 at Gibbo.

While DeMbare have had the luxury of playing one of their last two games in this tournament at home, and needing a penalty shootout to knock out Quelaton at Rufaro, CAPS United have been on the road all the time.

It's the solidity of their performances, on the road in this tournament, which gives the Green Machine fans' hope that a tussle against DeMbare on the neutral battlefields of Barbourfields could provide them with their best chance for a breakthrough victory.

Winning this tournament will be a huge boost for a CAPS United team that is clearly in transition and could just be the perfect birthday present as they walk into the forty-year club in just two months time.

The problem is that, against Dynamos, the Green Machine suddenly develop this mental bloc and slump into a state of psychological paralysis and, in many games, they are beaten even before the match gets underway.

There is no doubting that DeMbare have all the aces in their pack -- they have the players who can make a difference with just one swing of the body like Denver Mukamba and, in Simba Sithole, they have a hitman who is beginning to run into very good form.

CAPS United are the last team that needs to be reminded what an in-form Sithole can do because, for the better part of the first half of last season, his goals turned them into the deadliest team in the league championship race.

That Sithole chose to join Dynamos, on his return home after a frustrating time in South Africa, instead of CAPS United, was a surprise and that he will be targeted by the Green Machine boo boys tomorrow won't be a surprise.

Dynamos, on paper, have the better all-round team and someone will always rise to the occasion and if it's not the outstanding Pearson Jaure doing well in defence, then it's Tawanda Mparati excelling in midfield and, as CAPS know very well, scoring crucial late goals against them.

CAPS United will have to work very hard as a team, if they are to pull this one off, while DeMbare can have a number of their key players having an off-day but still succeed.

Little Quelaton came to Rufaro and took the Glamour Boys to a penalty shootout and if CAPS United needed anyone to give them with a ray of hope in this tough mission, then those boys from the City of Kings, who will be playing Division One football next year, provide just that.

But, then, in their next match at Baghdad, DeMbare found their groove and hammered Gunners 3-0, and that shows the amount of destruction they can inflict on their day.

This should be a thriller and one of the two giants could move closer to grabbing an early birthday present, whether for the Glamour Boys who are turning 50 or the Green Machine starting life at 40, from a city that is the home of their common rival - Bosso.

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