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Zambians’ Mandava battle

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FIRST it was the battle of the Zambians from the technical bench — Tennant Chilumba for FC Platinum and Kelvin Kaindu at Highlanders.

SUKOLUHLE MTHETHWA

And the outcome was 0-0 at the end of the match — a result that kept Highlanders ahead in the Premier Soccer League title race with 20 points, the same as Platinum, but on better goal difference.

Zambian international defender Aaron Katebe finally made his debut for Platinum playing 68 minutes before being taken off for attack-minded Joel Ngodzo in Chilumba’s rather defensive mode on Saturday.

But it was former Nkonkola Blades star Obrey Chirwa (21), who left a mark in the 16 minutes that he played on his debut when he came in for Nelson Maziwisa in the 78th minute. There was four minutes of added time.

His first touch did not betray him and he mesmerised Highlanders veteran Innocent Mapuranga to the end, and even had a penalty decision going against him late in the second half.

He is powerful and his positioning told of a player who will make some serious waves this season.

Chilumba was impressed.

“The coming-in of Chirwa and Katebe means there will be even more competition for positions. They will add more value to the team. Katebe will add more value to the defence because we have youngsters in the team who lack experience so his presence is going to be of much help,” Chilumba said.

Chirwa has been training with the Zvishavane-based outfit since March 1.

He will fight for a jersey with Mazivisa, Donald Ngoma, Charles Sibanda and Ali Sadiki, while Katebe will compete with captain Daniel Vheremu and twins Kelvin and Elvis Moyo in defence.

Should Chilumba, especially in the rather tough second half of the season, decide to push Katebe into central defence and Qadr Amini returns, then life could be complicated for the young twins.

Competition is stiff at Platinum, but the continued absence of Ngodzo, Allen Gahadzikwa, Mitchelle Katsvairo and Welcome Ndiweni from the starting line-up could turn out to be Chilumba’s Achilles heel. Ian Nekati and Winston Mhango are nowhere near the talents of that quartet.

The pressure of winning at Mandava is immense and Chilumba would rather defend than open up and lose all the points.

A midfield battle was witnessed when Thabani Kamusoko slugged it out with Mthulisi Maphosa and later his replacement Peter “Rio” Moyo. There is no doubt this was key to the result of the match as Kamusoko is playing the best football of his life.

As always in each match, there were talking points. Chilumba and Highlanders assistant coach Beki Ndlovu questioned Mutare referee Kuda Mananga for ending the first half after 43 minutes.

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