Highlanders keep up chase

BULAWAYO - Highlanders kept their championship hopes alive with a narrow victory over visiting FC Platinum in a Castle Premiership encounter here yesterday.

The in-form Masimba Mambare scored the all-important goal on 22 minutes to ensure that the destiny of the league title will be decided on the final day of the season.

 “We started strong in the first half and got the most important goal although we went on to create many other chances that we did not convert. It is good that we managed to pick maximum points and we are still marching forward, the race is still on,” said Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu.

Highlanders trail Dynamos by two points with a single game remaining in the league programme.

Bosso will play relegated Blue Rangers away in their final game while Dynamos have a date against Hardbody.

Yesterday, Highlanders could have won by a wide margin but were let down by some wayward finishing.

Goal-scorer Mambare could have opened his account after 19 minutes but skied his effort from inside the box.

The chance came about after the Platinum rearguard had failed to deal with a high free kick taken by Mthulisi Maphosa.

Mambare then got it right on 22 minutes when an attempt at goal by Graham Ncube deflected onto his path and he coolly controlled and shot past FC Platinum keeper Tafadzwa Dube.

Highlanders could have doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time but Graham was denied by a FC Platinum defender after finding himself at the end of a botched clearance by the visitors’ defence.  

Bheki Ncube had supplied the cross that the Platinum defenders had failed to effectively deal with and the ball kindly rolled for Graham whose weak attempt was easily blocked by a defender.

Graham did not last long after the break as he was hauled off for Beaven Chikaka on 49 minutes.

And with his first touch Chikaka set up Mambare but Bosso’s player of the moment blazed his effort over the bar.

The FC Platinum technical team made their own changes on 54 minutes and brought in Joel Ngodzo and Mitchelle Katsvairo for William Manondo and Welcome Ndiweni.

The double substitution immediately swung the pendulum in the visitors’ favour and Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda had to be at his best to keep out a headed effort by the towering Donald Ngoma on 57 minutes.

Ngoma had given suspect Highlanders central defender Dumisani Ndlovu the slip when the Bosso player failed to decisively deal with a high ball.

Two minutes later, Sibanda had to punch away another dangerous effort for a corner after another defensive blunder by Ndlovu, who was making a rare start as a replacement for the suspended Eric Mudzingwa.

Mambare then had another chance to add to his goal tally on 63 minutes but inexplicably failed to direct his effort into a yawning net after being set up by Chikaka.

And as the pressure began to mount in the hotly-contested match, Platinum keeper Dube and his central defender Zephaniah Ngodzo had an ugly spat after a breakdown in communication.

Ngodzo had tried to guide the ball back into Dube’s penalty box for his keeper to collect but the former Lancashire Steel and Dynamos keeper remained rooted in one place. Ngodzo had to make a rushed clearance as a Highlanders striker tried to take advantage of the mix up and the two team mates then traded some harsh words and the exchange went on for a lengthy spell.

After another miss by Mambare on 84 minutes, Highlanders had to endure an anxious finish as Daniel Veremu’s headers came agonisingly close with a minute to full time.

Donald Ngoma also had his effort saved by Sibanda in injury time after a schoolboy blunder by Heritein Masuku had allowed Katsvairo to play a dangerous cross into the box.

Masuku had mistakenly thought the ball had gone out of play for a goal kick and allowed Katsvairo a clear passage instead of playing to the whistle.   

TEAMS


Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Bruce Tshuma, Bruce Kangwa, Dumisani Ndlovu, Innocent Mapuranga, Mthulisi Maphosa, Heritein Masuku, Masimba Mambare, Bheki Ncube (Peter Moyo, 60 mins), Knox Mutizwa (Ozias Zibande 70 mins), Graham Ncube (Beaven Chikaka, 49 mins).  

FC Platinum: Tafadzwa Dube, Rafael Muduviwa, Quadr Amin, Zephaniah Ngodzo, Daniel Veremu, Thabani Kamusoko, Ali Sadiki (Allan Gahadzikwa, 80 mins), William Manondo (Joel Ngodzo, 54 mins), Welcome Ndiweni (Mitchelle Katsvairo, 54 mins), Charles Sibanda, Donald Ngoma. - Sakheleni Nxumalo

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