17 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Dembare Eye Glory

Champions Dynamos begin their chase for a first African Champions League trophy when they clash with Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) in the preliminary round, first leg of the continental contest at Rufaro this afternoon.

In a year in which they are celebrating their golden jubilee, the Glamour Boys are making their 16th appearance in Africa's elite club competition. They reached the final of the 1998 competition.

Interestingly, Dynamos began their dance in the continent's premier club competition 32 years ago against Lesotho side Linare, whom they beat 6-1 on goal aggregate, starting with an emphatic 5-0 home win.

DeMbare again booted out Lesotho Defence Forces in the first round of the 1999 competition after posting a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.

this afternoon they are in their third confrontation against a Lesotho side on a mission that looks easy on paper for DeMbare.

While seeking to justify their 50-year existence by surpassing their 1998's feat, the capital club is also eager to banish the hoodoo that has haunted them in the past two seasons when they failed to qualify for the prestigious mini-league phase having started promisingly.

Underlining DeMbare's poor showing in recent seasons was surrendering a 4-1 lead to Algerian side MC Algiers to crumble 3-0 away and crash out on away goals rule in the first round in 2011.

Far worse was last year's second round exit following a 6-0 away defeat by the then reigning champions and last season's eventual finalists, Esperance.

Now, most of the pre-match hype is revolving around the Harare giants who are coming up against LCS, a side that has never progressed past the preliminary round.

With depleted arsenal at coach Kalisto Pasuwa's disposal, especially the strikeforce, Dynamos are not taking that as an excuse to fail to get past the Basotho.

"It is a challenge to the strikers available. They are employed to score goals and that is exactly what they should do," said Pasuwa.

"We have learnt a lot from our previous appearances in this competition and we now know what to expect. We started our preparations very early and we now hope for better results," said Pasuwa.

The 19-time Zimbabwean champions welcome on-loan Hwange big striker Francesco Zekumbawire who only started training with the squad on Friday and was quickly drafted into this afternoon's squad.

Farai Mupasiri is the other forward available while injured left back Ocean Mushure has been ruled out.

"Masheshena", as LCS are affectionately known in Lesotho, have enjoyed apt preparations in which they drew in two friendly internationals against South African side Free State Stars and Botswana giants Gaborone United.

The visitors' coach Mosholi Mokhothu has refused the minnows rating and is relishing a mini-league phase berth.

"Dynamos are a big club and I do not want to ignore that fact. I know their history and mission of qualifying for the group stages, but for us it is also time to play in the group stages as well," said Mokhothu.

"Our international friendly games have given us a view of what to expect from Dynamos," he said.

The Basotho have three national team players, goalkeeper Sam Ketsekile, defender Moitheri Ntobo and Phasumane Kholuoe, who all featured in the 7-0 demolition by Ghana in a World Cup qualifier last year.

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