THE stumble by log leaders FC Platinum and the seemingly unravelling of the season for Ngezi Platinum following a spate of dreadful results has opened a window of hope for the chasing pack.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Before the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League teams went for a two-week break, championship hopes for Triangle, Chicken Inn and Caps United had appeared to be wilting in the coldness of the winter.
This race had been literally reduced to a two-horse race between the platinum mining teams who have been exchanging the leadership spot.
Perennial contenders Dynamos and Highlanders too had fallen far behind and there was nothing to suggest they would have interest in the race.
FC Platinum, in particular, had displayed a scintillating performance which had seen them move to 44 points and it was hard to imagine any one stopping them. They had developed a tendency of rendering their opponents powerless in crucial moments.
And as the championship race entered the decisive second half at the weekend, watchers of domestic football peered.
They were anxious to see how it would pan out. ZPC Kariba beating FC Platinum at Mandava? ZPC Kariba beating the defending champions who had last lost a match to Bulawayo Chiefs way back in April? It was largely unexpected, even though the power utility side had displayed good form. But it happened. Norman Mapeza’s men lost 1-2.
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With second-placed Ngezi succumbing to their fourth defeat on the trot, after they were edged by lowly Herentals 1-0 in one of the biggest upsets in domestic football, it has revived hope in other teams that had lost interest.
Triangle, Chicken Inn and Caps United on 32, 31 and 30 points respectively are now looking into the future with a lot of optimism. Perhaps Harare City and Highlanders can dream too.
The Taurai Mangwiro-coached side ran riot at Gibbo Stadium to demolish a hapless Shabanie Mine 5-0, their biggest victory of the campaign, to claim third place with 32 points from 18 matches.
Although they are 12 points off the pace, Mangwiro has turned things around at the Lowveld side which has been moving steadily up the ladder. In the last five matches, they have lost just once to fellow title challengers Chicken Inn who edged them 1-0 just before the break. With 16 games still left, it will be fool hardy to rule them out of the race. Chicken Inn also in fourth place with 31 points have a shout. The former champions who appeared dead and buried against Dynamos at Rufaro at the weekend, exhibited fortitude when they battled from a goal down to force a 1-all draw right at the death. That mental strength should have given Joey Antipas’ men confidence going forward.
Caps United were also beneficiaries of the stumble by the log leaders, earning themselves a vital point against a plucky Harare City. That result took their points tally to 30 from 18 matches, just up there with the chasing pack.
Now this is a team that has been through the mill, a team that has stood the test of time. Opponents can underestimate them at their own peril. Only in 2016, they battled their way to be crowned champions for the first time in 11 years, during a season that will linger on in years to come. Lloyd Chitembwe and his men should be starting to believe they can put up a very strong fight in this race.