BY FORTUNE MBELE
AFTER two debilitating successive Castle Lager Premier Soccer League defeats to FC Platinum and Chicken Inn, Highlanders face yet another stern test at the weekend in a clash against Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday.
The Bulawayo giants lost 2-0 to FC Platinum last week which was their first league defeat in the 2023/24 season, which saw the five point gap narrowed to two by second-placed Ngezi Platinum.
They had a chance to restore the cushion over the weekend after Ngezi lost to Herentals, but Bosso found themselves on the losing end, this time to former champions Chicken Inn.
Highlanders remained at 41 points, two ahead of Manica and Ngezi Platinum, while Dynamos and Chicken Inn also reduced the deficit with The Glamour Boys now on 36 points, five behind Highlanders.
The weekend matches are of particular interest as Ngezi Platinum clash with Manica, while Dynamos wrestle Highlanders.
Chicken Inn will be involved in yet another derby when they host Bulawayo Chiefs.
After losing to Chicken Inn on Sunday, Highlanders coach Baltemar Brito admitted the league is very competitive.
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There is no easy game for any team. If you look at the log, the eighth placed team can be relegated because they are close to the relegation zone and the top eight teams can dream of being champions. We are not competing alone and this is not an easy walk in the park and people sometimes think because we have a sequence of victories, the other runs will also be victories. But we need to respect that we are not playing alone, we need to understand our strength and weaknesses. At least we are in a good position,” Brito said.
He said the second half of the league was becoming tougher because teams now know each other.
“Normally the second lap of the season is harder than the first. Firstly because the teams become more physical and secondly because they now know each other and know better the teams that they are facing so the task becomes harder for us. But now we cannot use it to hide ourselves and not have the personality to compete but we can use it to say they know us; we need to find solutions, wee need to be stronger. We know that it will be hard,” he said.
Reigning champions FC Platinum gaffer Norman Mapeza was frustrated to see his team drop more points as hopes of retaining the title fade.
The platinum miners are on position seven with 31 points from 21 games, while giants Caps United are on 26 points after the weekend goalless draw with struggling Black Rhinos.
The Green Machine last won on July 15, when they beat Green Fuel 2-0 and have played six games without victory, playing three draws and suffering as many defeats.