Highlanders . . . . . . (1) 1
FC Platinum . . . . . . . 0
Report by Fortune Mbele
HIGHLANDERS edged FC Platinum at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday to keep their title chase alive ahead of the final round of Premier Soccer League matches at the weekend.
Prolific Masimba Mambare was on target in the 22nd minute from inside the penalty box after Graham Ncube’s effort deflected off the visitors’ defence and fell on his path and he rifled home a scorcher past goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube.
The solitary goal left the title race to be decided on the final day after defending champions Dynamos cruised 3-0 past army side Buffaloes at Rufaro Stadium.
The coveted trophy also awaits the decision of a determination to be made today by the Commercial Arbitration Court over the disputed Dynamos-Hwange match that was played in May.
Dynamos lead Bosso by two points with 68 before they play their last game against Hardbody at Ascot Stadium on Sunday while Highlanders take on troubled Blue Rangers in Harare.
If Bosso lose or settle for a draw on Sunday, then they surrender the title to DeMbare, while a loss for the defending champions and a win for Highlanders will bring the silverware to Bulawayo for the first time in six years.
Highlanders gaffer Kelvin Kaindu yesterday insisted that the race was still on.
“It is good that we have picked up six points from a team like FC Platinum although we missed a lot of chances. We are still marching and the race is still on. It is not going to be easy on Sunday as this is the game that is going to decide our destiny,” Kaindu said.
The game at Barbourfields belonged to Highlanders in the first half as they bombarded the platinum miners before they were finally rewarded in the 22nd minute with the visitors’ defenders Zephania Ngodzo, Daniel Veremu, Qadir Amin and Rafel Muduviwa being kept busy by the marauding Mambare, Bhekimpilo Ncube, Heritani Masuku and Mthulisi Maphosa.
Platinum’s only chance in the first half was a Charles Sibanda strike in the 39th minute which narrowly missed the upright off an Ali Sadiki cross.
Highlanders came a more fired-up side in the second stanza stringing beautiful moves from the back, but the hosts failed to find the target.
Platinum came back into the game after the introduction of Joel “Josta” Ngodzo and Mitchelle Katsvairo in the 54th minute for William Manondo and Welcome Ndiweni.
A long clearance by Platinum in the 57th minute could have resulted in an equaliser as suspect Bosso central defender Dumisani “Fazo” Ndlovu allowed Donald Ngoma a free header, but Ariel Sibanda came to the hosts’ rescue.
As Platinum turned on the heat, Josta could have equalised five minutes after coming in, but one of his usual searing strikes was met by an alert Sibanda.
In the 84th minute, Peter “Rio” Moyo appeared to be in a better position to shoot after breaking loose from the left, but opted for Mambare, who could not convert.
“Highlanders played well in the first 20 minutes. Credit to them; they have youngsters who played well. Our pattern of the game changed when we brought in Josta and Katsvairo, we had our chances, but we could not bury them,” said Platinum coach Tendai Chikuni.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, B Tshuma, B Kangwa, D Ndlovu, I Mapuranga, M Maphosa, G Ncube (B Chikaka 49th minute), H Masuku, K Mutizwa (O Zibande 70th minute), B Ncube (P Moyo 60th minute), M Mambare
FC Platinum: T Dube, R Muduviwa, Q Amin, Z Ngodzo, D Veremu, T Kamusoko, W Manondo (J Ngodzo 54th minute), W Ndiweni (M Katsvairo 54th minute), D Ngoma, C Sibanda, A Sadiki (A Gahadzikwa 80th minute)
Dynamos 3, Buffaloes 0; Highlanders 1, FC Platinum 0; Black Mambas 2, Hardbody 1; Motor Action 0, Gunners 1; Hwange 7, Blue Rangers 1; Chicken Inn 2, Caps United 2; Harare City 2, Monomotapa 1; Shabanie Mine 1, Quelaton 0
Saturday: Harare City v Motor Action (Gwanzura) Caps United v Shabanie Mine (Rufaro)
Sunday: Monomotapa v Buffaloes (Rufaro), Blue Rangers v Highlanders (Gwanzura), FC Platinum v Black Mambas (Mandava), Hardbody v Dynamos (Ascot), Quelaton v Hwange (Luveve), Gunners v Chicken Inn (Lafarge)