With just six games of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League to go, it is clear that come end of season either Kalisto Pasuwa, the Dynamos coach or Kelvin Kaindu, the Highlanders gaffer, will take home the coveted title.
Report by Sports Editor
For Pasuwa, it will be second in a row while for the Zambian, in his first coaching assignment outside his borders, it will be the first.
A total of 360 minutes, since last Wednesday, have produced a fairytale title race with the leadership of the league changing hands twice in the last five days.
First, Dynamos lost 1-0 to Chicken Inn at Barbourfields Stadium via an own goal in the 79th minute before Highlanders struck an injury time winner against Hwange at the Colliery to assume top spot.
But Saturday provided another twist to the race as Highlanders fell to their first defeat in 25 league and cup matches, going down 3-0 to Monomotapa at Rufaro Stadium to hand the initiative back to Dynamos, who were in action 24 hours later.
This was the second time that Highlanders conceded more than two goals in a single game after beating Hardbody 5-3 in a league match at Barbourfields early in the season.
How mentally and physically strong Highlanders players are will be judged by how they react in their next home game against Black Mambas at Barbourfields on Sunday.
On the same day, Dynamos will be at the Colliery slugging it out against Hwange.
At least this time, the two title chasers are playing on the same day and same time.
On Saturday at Rufaro, Highlanders found no answer to Monomotapa’s attacking flair led by hat-trick hero Osborne Mukuradare.
Given little game time by the dismissed Taurayi Mangwiro, it was only a matter of time before Mukuradare struck the right chord under Biggie Zuze.
Zuze had his doubts about the player, giving him a cameo role, but the moment he got the starting berth, it rained goals at Rufaro.
With 43 points from 24 games, Monoz are in the game and still have a match against Dynamos, whom they beat 1-0 in the reverse fixture.
For Kaindu, six games will define his much-heralded return to Zimbabwe.
“Our focus is on building a team for next season like I said at the start of the season. We are not worried about the league title,” said Kaindu in the aftermath of the defeat.
Here is a man who has preached the same gospel since the start of the season and has given the Highlanders family the belief that it can be done.
While he is not apparently focused on the league title, he has raised the hopes of the entire black and white family — they simply want the league title.
The Zambian ruled out fatigue on his players, saying every team was affected.
Highlanders travelled to Hwange last Wednesday and passed through Bulawayo the following day on their way to Harare.
Dynamos were in Bulawayo and returned to Harare on Thursday and are back on the road at the weekend heading to the Colliery.
Hwange are in Harare tomorrow and return home on Thursday to face Dynamos three days later.
Dynamos made easy meat of Shabanie, pummelling them into errors and own goals to ensure they built a better goal difference over Highlanders, just in case it comes to that at the end of the season.
After the 1-0 midweek loss to Chicken Inn, Dynamos had to show their true colours as the defending champions and did just that with Simba Sithole scoring his first goal in the blue and white colours.
Dynamos assistant coach Tonderai Ndiraya was a happy man at the result.
“It’s a good feeling to be back at the top. It now requires the players to put more effort to remain there. We have been telling the boys that we need to be consistent if we are to retain the championship.
“We started the match slowly, but we managed to get two opportunistic goals. But in the second half we played more purposefully. Overall, we are quite impressed by the team’s performance today considering that we were coming from a defeat,” Ndiraya said.
This week’s fixtures are a dress rehearsal for the Week 26 final at Rufaro between Dynamos and Highlanders.
Too bad SuperSport might not be here to cover the humdinger.