CAPS UNITED . . . . . . . (3) 4
HIGHLANDERS . . . . . . . . . 0
MARK Mathe’s first game as Highlanders interim coach was disastrous as his team were crushed by a clinical Caps United in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The visiting team were three behind after just 22 minutes, with first Ishmael Thindwa, Nicholas Alifandika and an own-goal by Dumisani Ndlovu putting the rampant Caps United on their way to a huge victory — a sweet revenge for the side who lost by the same scoreline in the reverse fixture.
Kelvin Bulaji also got in on the act with a headed effort on 75th minute to round off a day that would probably rank as the worst of Mathe’s career.
A number of angry Bosso fans blocked the exit way after the match, baying for Mathe’s blood.
With the win, Caps kept their third place on the log standing with 45 points, two behind second-placed ZPC Kariba and four behind leaders Dynamos.
But crucially for the Green Machine, they managed to keep pace with the leaders, who both posted crucial wins over the weekend.
For Highlanders, it appears forcing coach Kelvin Kaindu out was not the cleverest of decisions as evidenced by yesterday’s humiliating defeat.
Yesterday’s embarrassing defeat was their third in a row, and the team is now hanging precariously on fourth position with 39 points, just one ahead of FC Platinum and Hwange.
Caps United coach Taurai Mangwiro could hardly have believed the gifts that were presented to him — neatly wrapped in black and white.
In his post-match comments, Mangwiro said his team played with common sense and belief — everything that was missing from their opponents.
Mathe, on the other side, bemoaned his side’s lack of accuracy in front of goal and carelessness at the back.
Their carelessness at the back was both damaging and extreme.
The defensive shield of the ageing Innocent Mapuranga, Ndlovu, Erick Mudzingwa and Felix Chindungwe were just poor and, at this level, a team cannot expect to get away with these kinds of collective failures.
Mathe, however, believed his side still had a chance to win the title. There was no arguing Bosso made the stronger start, but were let down by poor finishing.
Both Charles Sibanda and Mthulisi Maphosa had good chances to put their side in front in a frenetic opening two minutes, but they squandered them before Caps United struck on the counter.
Against the run of play, a ball was flung in the Highlanders box and in a melee, Thindwa was the first to react to poke it home with his side’s first attack of note.
The story could have been different, however, moments later when Highlanders’ Gabriel Nyoni tumbled under the challenge of Steven Makatuka inside the box, but the striker was booked for simulation instead.
It looked like Nyoni had a case though.
On 10 minutes, Caps increased their advantage when Alifandika beat an offside trap to head home from a free-kick.
It was just too easy for Caps as he was one of the four green shirts who had lined up for the ball which had been sent in by Ronald Pfumbidzai.
The match had opened up and the tempo was electrifying with both teams creating good chances.
But despite having a slight advantage in possession, nothing was really going for Highlanders as Sibanda’s close range shot was cleared off the line by Pfumbidzai on the 15th minute.
Thindwa then hit the side netting on 20th minute after some good work on the right by Kumbuyani.
It got even better for Caps when Ndlovu beat his own goalkeeper for the hosts’ third goal, after just 22 minutes in bizarre fashion.
Under pressure from the attackers, the defender instead of clearing the ball away, he lobbed it over his stranded goalkeeper Nyoni.
Highlanders were now clearly struggling with the pace of the match with their backline failing to cope with the speed of Alifandika, Bulaji and Thindwa.
On the half hour mark, Bulaji outpaced Mapuranga, who had been shifted from anchor to his usual centreback position, but the striker chose to go for glory from an acute angle when squaring the ball for the lurking Thindwa was the best option.
Highlanders were rocking and their coach Mathe clearly panicking. His reaction to the massacre was to pull out Joel Ngodzo for Pascal Manhanga with 40 minutes played.
The first half score was 3-0, but it could easily have been worse.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with plenty of possession for the visitors, but better chances and positivity for the home side.
And if Pfumbidzai thought his first half goal line clearance was brilliant, his fellow defender Steven Makatuka made it look so simple with an acrobatic block to deny former Caps United forward Rahman Kutsanzira early in the second half.
While Bulaji made a harsh of a good chance in the first half, he made amends later on in the second half when he majestically rose to meet a corner, floated in by Alifandika to beat Nyoni.
Caps pressed for more but, with the game long-since won, their edge had gone.
Highlanders on the other hand, were just battling to minimise the damage.
Kutsanzira wasted a good chance late on when he screwed his effort wide to sum up what had been a hugely disappointing afternoon for Mathe and Highlanders.
CAPS UNITED — T Dube, T Kumbuyani, D Chipala, S Makatuka, R Pfumbidzai, T Samanja, H Zvirekwi, M Muchenje (T Mahori, 57’), N Alifandika (G Mangani, 69’), I Thindwa, K Bulaji (D Mukandi, 85’).
HIGHLANDERS — N Nyoni, B Kangwa, I Mapuranga, D Ndlovu, E Mudzingwa, F Chindungwe, M Maphosa (W Ndiweni, 66’), J Ngodzo (P Manhanga, 40’), R Kutsanzira, C Sibanda (O Zibande, 71’), G Nyoni