MONOMOTAPA goalkeeper Tapiwa Zvaita had the nightmare of retrieving the ball five times from the nets as Highlanders emphatically returned to the top of the Castle Premiership at Rufaro Stadium yesterday with a crushing win.
REPORT BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Monomotapa . . . . . (1) 2
Highlanders . . . . . . (1) 5
This was just the perfect response to Sunday’s 2-1 loss to How Mine in the Bulawayo Derby. The comprehensive victory took Highlanders to the summit of the league table with 23 points with rivals FC Platinum slipping to second position with 21 points following their shock defeat to Hwange on Wednesday. Highlanders striker Graham Ncube and Mthulisi Maphosa scored a brace each with Njabulo Ncube weighing in with the other goal after converting from the penalty spot.
Bosso coach Kelvin Kaindu was naturally delighted with the win. “If we could score five goals away from home, it’s a good performance considering that we are coming from a defeat. Monomotapa always give us problems, but we came back stronger in the second half. We used the second half to our advantage, but it has been difficult,” he said.
His opposite number Biggie Zuze conceded defeat. “Credit to Highlanders. They were too strong for us in the second half. But we could have won the match in the first half. We created plenty of chances. The scoreline is disappointing,” he said.
The hosts raced into the lead with Lawe beating Innocent Mapuranga before unleashing a rasping shot into the nets after 13 minutes.
Highlanders refused to be cowed into submission as they continued to probe their opponents with the spirit of an ant and the determination of a bee.
On 22 minutes Maphosa was denied by a classy save by Zvaita, but Bosso were duly rewarded three minutes later with Graham twisting his head in the air before planting a firm header into the far left corner of the post off a cross from Milton Ncube to level matters.
In the 30th minute Lawe won possession in the box, but his shot was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda who stood in for Munyaradzi Diya who is away with the national team.
Former Gunners forward Ismael Lawe also scored a double for Monomotapa.
In the 41st minute, Njabulo was fed by Milton and released a powerful shot, but Zvaita got a full glove to the ball to deny him what could have been his first goal. Towards the end of the first half, Monomotapa’s Aggripa Murimba and Lawe came close, but directed their efforts off target.
However, Highlanders came back from the break a much stronger side and carved out good chances.
In the 48th minute, coach Kaindu made a tactical substitution bringing on utility player Eric Mudzingwa for Hillary Madzivanyika.
And Mudzingwa, who has missed a number of matches this season owing to injury, did stabilise the midfield and it needed just five minutes for Highlanders to lead as defender Morgen Mungombe brought down Graham in the penalty box and giant referee Batsirai Muchenje pointed to the spot.
Njabulo stepped up to take responsibility for Highlanders’ second goal.
A minute later Maphosa won possession on the left before drilling a low ground shot into the nets for Highlanders’ third goal.
Graham then missed a headed opportunity on 72 minutes. But it was Monoz who pulled one back with Lawe beating keeper Sibanda with a low shot after a neat exchange of passes with Obey Mwerahari.
Graham was denied by the upright at the stroke of full time as Highlanders continued to take dominance. But Ncube made amends right at the death with a rasping shot to complete his double. The tireless Maphosa then sealed the victory with a low ground shot with the Monoz defence guilty of ball watching.