HIGHLANDERS forward Newman Sianchali struck 10 minutes before the final whistle for his side to collect maximum points against a resilient Mutare City Rovers side in a balanced Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
With the sense of stalemate seemingly settling, there was a good exchange of passes involving MacClive Phiri and in-form Gabriel Nyoni, who set up Sianchali to atone for a number of wasted chances.
There were several missed opportunities for Highlanders, especially in the first half, with Sianchali, Godfrey Makaruse, Brian Banda and Ray Lunga off target, but the Bulawayo football giants continued with their good run at home, ensuring they closed the gap on log-leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars, who were held by ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga.
Nyoni played a game of his life with Lunga, playing his first game for the senior team this year, also outstanding on the right-wing.
It was a new-look side for Highlanders that missed regulars − Peter Muduhwa, Adrian Silla and Nigel Makumbe − due to injuries and suspensions.
Coach Madinda Ndlovu said that was a disadvantage to his side as they wasted a number of chances that could have seen them win by a wider margin.
Ndlovu had earlier said he would miss the match due to a family bereavement, but he made it. Andew Mbeba played his debut in central defence for Highlanders in the absence of Muduhwa with another new face Brian Jaravaza.
“The game was balanced. We controlled the game in the first half, unfortunately, we did not get the desired goals. They came at us in the second half, but we have designed our players to deal with the long ball, which they easily dealt with. We could have scored more than one goal had we utilised chances that we had, but the boys were shaky as we are coming from a defeat,” Ndlovu said.
Sianchali missed a sitter in the 67th minute when he came face-to-face with goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube, who blocked his effort before the striker shot wide on the rebound.
Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda also came to the hosts’ rescue twice in the second half, pushing out for a corner a grounder by Kelvin Bingala just after the hour mark and making another brilliant save in optional time from substitute Brian Chinhoyi.
Mutare City mentor Joseph Takaringofa was not disappointed albeit his side suffering their sixth defeat of the season.
“The game was okay. Both teams played to win. My boys did well although we were on a losing note, losing to a team that plays well. I am not underpressure at all. It’s only a matter of time and I am not worried at the fear of relegation,” he said.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, M Phiri, H Moyo, A Mbeba, C Siamalonga, B Musaka, G Makaruse (O Zibande 65′), B Banda (M Chitambwe 90′), N Sianchali, R Lunga (B Jaravaza 82′), G Nyoni
Mutare City: T Dube, P Gumbo, J Chitawira, K Bingala (B Chinhoyi 86′), L Mangayira, J Takunda, T Kabanda (B Veremu 53′), D Mangesi, K Njovo, T Sadiki, E Chikwaikwai (W Pakamisa 75′)