Chibuku Super Cup exposes deepening rot at CAPS, Dembare
CAPS United and Dynamos were booted out of the Chibuku Super Cup semifinals after identical 2-1 losses to Harare City and Triangle respectively, but more depressing for their followers must have been the revelation that the rot at the two teams actually runs deeper than many had imagined.
CAPS and Dynamos are two of the three traditional heavyweights that have dominated Zimbabwean football for decades, and such a semifinal matchup in years gone by would have almost guaranteed a mouth-watering final between the two Harare giants.
It is a sign of the changing times, however, that City and Triangle were actually the favourites going into the weekend fixtures
Still, that did not make the outcome any less unpalatable for the Dynamos and CAPS followers, and the atrocious football displayed by the two teams served to further dampen hopes of any immediate uptick in fortunes.
With top teams FC Platinum and Ngezi having already been knocked out of the Chibuku Super Cup, along with Highlanders, officials of both CAPS and Dynamos had seen a great opportunity to atone for their disastrous league campaign.
Going all the way in the country's premier knockout tournament would have come with a ticket into the Confederations Cup.
Dynamos felt they had enough grounds for some guarded optimism going into their clash against Triangle, with a run of three consecutive wins in the league having lifted the mood somewhat in the blue camp.
It took a Lameck Nhamo double inside the opening quarter-hour for reality to sink, and Triangle could have been well out of sight by the break after a dominant first-half showing.
Dembare were barely in the mood for a fight, with not a single player coming close to producing anything resembling a special moment.
Valentine Kadonzvo, probably feeling some pressure after the imaginative V11 headlines during the week, endured a subdued afternoon. In fact, it was his cheap loss of possession that gifted Triangle their second goal.
Youthful midfielder Kudzanai Dhemere, that fountain of hope in preseason, had to be substituted well before halftime while his replacement, Marvelous Mukumba, seemed more interested in proving just why he has turned out to be such a disappointing acquisition.
In striker Kingstone Nkhata's case, no amount of running around could disguise the reality that he is now over the hill. And the less said of the Dynamos defence the better.
Yet this is a team which, at the beginning of the year, had former coach Lloyd Mutasa purring. With prospects such as Emmanuel Mandiranga, Cleopas Kapupurike, Dhemere, Mukumba, Blessing Moyo and Peace Makaha, few would have envisioned such a horror campaign.
Looking ahead, Dynamos will need a new coach to replace the departed Mutasa. But their predicament centres on how to improve their squad and where to get the personnel needed, as they are a financially struggling institution with no credible scouting mechanism in place.
They are not alone in their troubles, with eternal rivals CAPS seemingly eager to join them in the doldrums.
CAPS were outflanked and outplayed by a sleek City side on Saturday, and the 2-1 loss was not an accurate reflection of the flow of play. The match highlighted teething problems in all departments.
Midfielder Joel Ngodzo's late strike was CAPS' first goal in open play in the competition, having needed penalties to get through the first two rounds after goalless draws against ZPC Kariba and Chapungu.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe has brought in Brian Muzondiwa and Mitchell Kutsvairo this season to try and add bite upfront, but things haven't worked.
Chitembwe pushed left-back Milton Ncube upfront on Saturday, but the former Ajax Cape Town player was ineffectual. What is more, CAPS' problems are not confined to the strike-force, with the defence also in desperate need of a massive shake up.
Makepekepe had gone into their clash against City hoping for some respite after a dreadful run of four defeats in five matches in the league, only to emerge with more evidence of their growing impotence.
There might be some relief that an underwhelming season is drawing to a close for Zimbabwe's traditional giants, but the signs are that the near future is not looking any better.