Caps best placed to win Premiership: Akbay
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.