Caps best placed to win Pre­mier­ship: Ak­bay

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ed­die Chikamhi Harare Bureau

HIGHLANDERS coach, Erol Ak­bay, feels Caps United are now best placed to win this year’s Cas­tle Lager Pre­mier­ship ti­tle.

Makepekepe, who are seek­ing to end an 11-year bar­ren search, un­der­lined their ti­tle cre­den­tials when they beat Harare City 1-0 at Ru­faro cour­tesy of Leonard Tsipa’s first half goal.

Championship ri­vals FC Plat­inum were 2-0 vic­tors over Cha­pungu on the same day as Bosso fell 1-2 to Tsholot­sho to vir­tu­ally bow out of the race with two games re­main­ing.

Bosso were touted as the dark horses in this year’s marathon fol­low­ing a re­mark­able re­cov­ery from a mid­sea­son slump but they shot them­selves in the foot when they lost at home to rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates Tsholot­sho.

The ex­pa­tri­ate coach be­lieves his charges had given their best af­ter stitch­ing to­gether seven straight wins in the last two months.

“Of course there was too much pres­sure on the play­ers be­cause of that strong feel­ing that they could pos­si­bly be cham­pi­ons.

“We had picked form and in such cir­cum­stances so many things will be go­ing through their minds. It’s not easy at this stage of the sea­son be­cause of those lin­ger­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Now, about (win­ning) the ti­tle, I don’t think (we can do) so be­cause we are now four points be­hind Caps United with just two games re­main­ing.

“That would mean Caps United will have to drop points in their last two matches. But with the way they have been play­ing of late, I don’t see that hap­pen­ing. Caps United have the ad­van­tage.

“But we still have to con­cen­trate till the end. If you can­not be cham­pi­ons then it has to be num­ber two. Al­ready we are as­sured of fin­ish­ing in the top three but we would want the best pos­si­ble place,” said Ak­bay.

Ak­bay yes­ter­day said the de­feat dealt a dev­as­tat­ing blow to their cam­paign as only a miracle could see them through.

“It was not so bad a game on our side be­cause we had many chances to score but we couldn’t. We made two mis­takes and the op­po­nents scored and that was the dif­fer­ence.

“But I am happy with my team. The good thing is that the play­ers are now get­ting to un­der­stand my con­cepts and my tac­tics. There is tal­ent in Zim­babwe in gen­eral, good enough to play in Europe,” said Ak­bay.

They have 53 points while FC Plat­inum are sit­ting on 55. Caps United lead with 57 points.

Although the championship now ap­pears within reach for Makepekepe, there are still some in­ter­est­ing per­mu­ta­tions go­ing into the last two games.

Highlanders and FC Plat­inum could can­cel out each other in the penul­ti­mate round next up at Man­dava.

A draw be­tween the teams could see Caps United be­ing crowned cham­pi­ons by win­ning their next match against Ngezi Plat­inum Stars.

But the Green Ma­chine face a po­ten­tial banana skin in Ton­derai Ndi­raya’s ever-im­prov­ing Ngezi Plat­inum Stars in their next match at home be­fore con­clud­ing their cam­paign against rel­e­ga­tion fight­ers Cha­pungu at As­cot.

If Caps United lose their next game to Ngezi Plat­inum and FC Plat­inum beat Highlanders then the race will turn on its head again with the plat­inum min­ers tak­ing con­trol in the fi­nal round matches. Makepekepe coach Lloyd Chitem­bwe is aware of that. “It was a very good re­sult (against Harare City) but ob­vi­ously per­for­mance-wise, I not so im­pressed. It had a lot to do with anx­i­ety. We were too anx­ious and it is the rea­son why we un­der-per­formed.

“What’s more im­por­tant is to con­tinue grind­ing re­sults. I am not re­ally wor­ried. At this stage we are not re­ally wor­ried at what other teams are do­ing. We still have a long way to go and we have a big job on our hands,” said Chitem­bwe.

The break is also a bless­ing for Makepekepe who lost vet­eran for­ward Tsipa to in­jury in the first half on Satur­day.

Tsipa had scored the soli­tary goal that de­cided the match to take his tally to 11 goals, two ahead of Hwange’s Gift Mb­weti in the Golden Boot race.

“I think we have man­aged him (Tsipa) very well and he has been avail­able in cru­cial games. This week­end we are on break and it is good for us, it gives us time for play­ers like Leonard to re­cover and re­cu­per­ate but it is not some­thing se­ri­ous,” said Chitem­bwe.

Erol Ak­bay

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