CALL it an epic battle, battle of the Zambians, battle royale or clash of the titans.
Report by Ephraim Shoko/ Henry Mhara
Whatever tag you may choose to place on this afternoon’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer duel between FC Platinum and Highlanders at Mandava Stadium, the match has all the ingredients of a thriller.
Highlanders go into the match with their tails up on the back of the dominance they have enjoyed over Platinum since the latter gained promotion into premiership football in 2011.
For Platinum, it will be a chance to break the dominance and they have home advantage on their side.
The two teams have met four times in the league with Bosso triumphing on three occasions while Platinum have won just once.
Interestingly, Highlanders have not lost a match in Zvishavane this season, winning on both their visits, against Shabanie Mine at Maglas and Tripple B at Mandava.
There is very little to separate the two teams, with a number of similarities that can be drawn from their fortunes in the league this season.
Both teams have started the season well and are tied on 19 points, with Highlanders, however, claiming pole position owing to a superior goal difference.
Thus today’s match will be a battle for the top spot on the log, and whoever triumphs will revel, at least for the week, at the summit of the 16-team log.
Both Platinum and Highlanders are coached by Zambian coaches, Tenant Chilumba and Kelvin Kaindu respectively.
Highlanders are coming from a 3-0 victory over Buffaloes at Barbourfields last weekend, a result that saw them dislodging Platinum, who beat Tripple B 1-0, from the summit.
Highlanders have tasted defeat once at the hands of Motor Action while Platinum’s only loss came from neighbours Shabanie Mine. Both teams lost their matches with identical scorelines, 1-0.
Another similarity between the two team’s fortunes in the league so far is they have both drawn once against champions Dynamos. Highlanders drew 1-1 with the Harare giants while FC Platinum settled for a 2-2 draw.
Considering that Highlanders have dominated their previous meetings with Platinum, the hosts go into the match seeking to break the dominance.
Platinum assistant coach Tendai Chikuni, however, played down the notion that his side has been dominated by Highlanders.
“I wouldn’t say they have dominated us but have simply won more games. We beat them before in our maiden season and it’s only last season that they beat us, home and away.
“Of course, our main objective is to win the match, but I must point out that it’s not going to be easy for both teams. The team that will play like champions will win the match and I hope it will be us,” said Chikuni.
Platinum will be missing the services of right back Raphael Muduviwa who is nursing an injury, while midfielder Joel Ngodzo is also doubtful.
Highlanders assistant coach Bekithemba Ndlovu expressed optimism that his side would post a positive result this afternoon and extend their lead at the summit of the log.
“We prepared well during the week and I am confident that the boys will come out with a positive result. It’s going to be a good, but difficult game and I am sure the fans will enjoy it because we both play an almost similar brand of football.
“Yes, we are on top of the log, but I don’t think that is anything we should be talking about. It is still early to be celebrating and we have to concentrate and take each game as it comes,” said Ndlovu.
It is will only take 90 minutes to see if anything will separate the two teams.
Tomorrow, midfielder Cliff Sekete returns to the Dynamos line-up to face Hwange at Rufaro Stadium tomorrow as the league champions search for their second straight league win at the expense of a team they controversially beat in the same fixture last season.
Hwange coach Nation Dube was allegedly manhandled by the Dynamos marshals just before the match, which his side went on to lose 4-2.
This match presents an opportunity for Dynamos to close the gap on joint log leaders Highlanders and FC Platinum should the two sides cancel each other at Mandava Stadium in the top-of-the-table clash today.
Ahead of the Rufaro match, Dube has said he holds no grudges against Dynamos and would probably want to prove that without controversies, his side can beat the Harare giants.
Hwange has not started well this season and after eight matches, they have one win and a total of seven points. In Washington Pakamisa, Dynamos coach Kalisto Pasuwa has found a new saviour and after his second brace in as many weeks last week, focus will be firmly on the former Caps United man again this week.
The former Gunners man, Sekete, whose form has suddenly dropped after a bright start to the season on which he was becoming the team’s talisman, missed last weekend’s match with a swollen face. Sekete resumed training this week and team manager Richard Chihoro yesterday revealed that the swelling had subsidised and the speedy midfielder is up
“The win against Monomotapa was very important to us and we have to build on that result going forward. The players are looking forward to the Hwange match and they are very confident that they will win,” said Chihoro. For Hwange, their match winners remain veterans Gilbert Zulu, Gerald Ndlovu and Farai Vimisayi while the experienced hands of
Timothy Sibanda should come in handy.