DYNAMOS striker Christian Ntouba Epoupa has gone missing in action at a time his team needs him most.
The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title race is in squeaky bum territory with DeMbare a point behind leaders FC Platinum with five matches to go.
However, the man the Glamour Boys hoped would power them to the title has not scored in the team’s last five league matches and DeMbare have only won one of those encounters, edging Harare City 2-1.
With skipper Ocean Mushure inconsistent of late and Denver Mukamba battling off field demons the Glamour Dynamos badly needed Epoupa to continue with the form that has seen him score 11 times this term.
But the Cameroonian is presently looking like a caricature of the striker who terrorised defences during the first half of the season.
Increasingly, Epoupa is cutting a solemn figure in blue.
He has learnt some basic Shona, mostly expletives, and is now in the habit of directing a few choice words towards the referee each time a call doesn’t go his way.
During the midweek clash against Tsholotsho, which ended 1-1, Epoupa got his first dosage of boos from the DeMbare fans.
That blue army that has been worshipping the ground he walks on showed Epoupa their other side – the nasty side – after he chose to go for glory when setting up an unmarked Mukamba was a better option.
Epoupa’s goal drought has seen him being overtaken at the top of the goalscoring charts by Dominic Chungwa and Lot Chiwunga, the Caps United and Black Rhinos strikers who are tied on 12 goals.
The wrenched form has also forced Mutasa to tinker with a playing style that appeared to work before his Cameroonian import lost his scoring boots.
Prior to the 1-all draw with Highlanders at Rufaro on the 10th of last month, the game in which he last scored, Epoupa played the role of target man to near perfection.
Two short passes and a long one to Epoupa was the modus operandi!
And the striker was rarely found wanting, holding up the ball well waiting for back-up from midfield or channelling it swiftly to the flanks where Mushure and Peace Makaha were always ready to whip in dangerous crosses.
However, with Epoupa off the boil Dynamos are playing more in hope.
Hope that something good will happen if they hoof the ball up-field.
Consequently, Epoupa has started popping up everywhere like pimples, losing all sense of positional discipline.
Against Tsholotsho he resorted to dropping deep in search of possession and the visitors had little trouble sniffing him out from such deep areas.
Epoupa is not the most skilful of lads and his toxicity dwindles with each step he takes away from the opposition’s goal.
There is a palpable air of desperation about Epoupa and Mutasa has moved in quickly to work on the striker’s mind.
“As a chief striker sometimes it gets into you if you don’t score but the good thing is that we have been engaging him,” said the DeMbare gaffer.
“The key thing is the total contribution of the player. Sometimes you have to put the team ahead of personal glory.
“To us it’s better to win when Christian is not scoring than lose in games that he scores. This game is an emotional one and if one doesn’t score one gets emotional sometimes.”
DeMbare will visit Ngezi Platinum Stars, welcome Chapungu going to Bulawayo twice to face Bulawayo City and Bantu Rovers before putting a lid on their 2017 campaign with a home tie against Chicken Inn.
It’s a tough run for an inexperienced team that has to catch up.
Most observers have already written DeMbare off but Mutasa insists there will be more twists and turns before the fat lady sings.
“I am not worried much about the different perceptions pertaining to the league title race. For us the actors, nothing has moved an inch away from what we said we wanted to achieve.
“We are cool and faithful about how we are doing business, so get in touch with us after the last game,” he said.
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