Monoz dump Highlanders

HWANGE -  Highlanders paid the price for blowing up a two-goal lead and were eliminated from the lucrative Mbada Diamonds Cup by a fired-up Monomotapa here yesterday.

A quick brace by the towering Bheki Ncube within the first 20 minutes had seemingly set Bosso on the path to victory but Monoz staged a spectacular comeback to overturn the odds and grab a memorable victory.

After the match Monomotapa coach Biggie Zuze said they had not panicked after finding themselves two goals down because they knew Highlanders would not last the distance.

“We knew Highlanders have aging players who could not last the distance so we did not panic but kept playing our normal game,” Zuze said.

Monomotapa now meet CAPS United in the semifinals next month after the Harare giants had eliminated Buffaloes in another quarterfinal on Saturday.

Yesterday, Highlanders had taken the lead after 13 minutes when Bheki tapped in from the blind side after being set up Mthulisi Maphosa.

And Bheki struck again on 19 minutes when he again ghosted in from the blind side to slot in a cross from Mambare.

The move had been started by Highlanders keeper Ariel Sibanda whose long clearance found Cleopas Dube who managed to hold off a Monoz defender before passing to Lawson Nkomo who then fed Mambare and the former Motor Action man centred Bheki who made no mistake from close range.

Nkomo had to put his body on the line on 25 minutes when he threw himself on the path of a goal bound effort by man of the match Ronald Chitiyo.With play swinging from end to end, Highlanders striker Dube could have made the game safe for his team but took too long to shoot and thus allowed Monomotapa defender Morgan Mungombe time to recover and push the ball out for a corner.

Dube had been sent through by Maphosa on 26 minutes in a quick Bosso counter.

Monomotapa eventually pulled one back with a minute to go before halftime when a moment of madness from Maphosa gifted Monomotapa with possesion and the ensuing attack saw Sibanda pulling off a reflex save to push Russell Madamombe’s effort for a corner.

Chitiyo took the set piece and his kick found Osborne Mukuradare who nodded in from the blind side.

After the break the disappointing Ozias Zibande failed to do justice to a through ball from Maphosa and allowed Monomotapa keeper Artwell Mukandi to clear.

Monoz then drew level when Sibanda pushed a Madamombe free kick into the nets on 52 minutes.

The Warriors keeper palmed the ball into his goal instead of punching it away to safety.

Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu then threw in Milton Ncube for Zibande, Peter Moyo for Maphosa and Heretein Masuku for Bheki in a bid to regain the lead.

It was Monomotapa who found the winner on 84 minutes when Hillary Mugoniwa fired home a screamer past Sibanda.

The erratic Highlanders central midfielders lost possesion near the centre circle and a quick transition by Monoz saw them going on a quick counter that ended with Mugoniwa firing home from long range.

Dube was unlucky not to take the game to penalties when his header bounced off the cross bar and back into play on 89 minutes.

After the match, Kaindu admitted his charges had lost the central midfield battle.

“We scored two early goals but lost concentration as the guys got tired in the second half,” Kaindu said.

Highlanders players were on strike in the run up to yesterday’s encounter and it was clear that most of them lacked fitness and failed to match their fast opponents. -
Sakheleni Nxumalo

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