BY FORTUNE MBELE
With three rounds of games left before the close of business in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League, the fight for survival has sucked in at least eight teams, including recent Caf Confederation Cup participant Triangle, and is set to go to the wire.
Previously, 36 points would be enough to survive relegation. Not anymore. There are teams with 37 points who are not yet safe, while Manica Diamonds, with 41 points, are also still looking over their shoulders.
Triangle on 11th position with 37 points are just two points ahead of Bulawayo Chiefs, a team that sits on the relegation cut-off point. That’s how tight things are at the bottom.
The Lowveld side, who appeared to be title contenders at the start of the season, suffered a 2-0 defeat to TelOne on Saturday at Ascot Stadium, which was their fifth defeat in their last seven matches, a run of results that has dragged them into the relegation battle.
It seems their participating in the continental showcase sapped the life out of them after starting the season very well.
The Taurai Mangwiro-coached side have a game in hand against Hwange.
Besides Hwange, a tricky fixture considering that they are also fighting relegation, Triangle will also face ZPC Kariba. They will then play another relegation struggler Yadah before concluding their campaign with a clash against Dynamos.
Triangle struggled this year is a huge contrast to the team that excelled last year when they finished the season on fourth position and won the Chibuku Super Cup, earning them the ticket to the Africa safari.
Just below Triangle is Harare City, who for all their resources, are also struggling to stay afloat.
They have the same number of points as Triangle and have what appears to be a tough run-in on their remaining games.
Having fought back from two goals down to force a draw away at ZPC Kariba, things get tough in their next fixture as they face fellow relegation candidates Yadah in a six-pointer match. Harare City will also face Dynamos and Ngezi Platinum Stars.
TelOne arrived into the league with all the glitz at the start of the year, but could find themselves back in Division One after just one season.
They currently sit on 13th position with 36 points, and while they have picked two wins and a draw in their last three matches – that good run of results will mean nothing if they lose their remaining matches against bottom-placed Mushowani Stars, Hwange and championship-chasing Chicken Inn.
Herentals are on position 14 with 35 points and their last three encounters pit them against Hwange, Chicken Inn and Bulawayo Chiefs.
The four teams that are currently in the relegation zone are Bulawayo Chiefs at 35 points, Hwange (33 points), Yadah (32 points) and Mushowani Stars, two points below.
Mushowani will need to win all their remaining three matches, against TelOne, ZPC Kariba and Yadah to entertain any chance of survival.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the four as wins in their next matches could see them jump out of the relegation zone, which makes the battle for survival the more exciting; and with the number of teams that are involved, it seems the fight will go to the wire.