Spills, thrills in PSL title race

HARARE - The first half of the 2013 Castle Premiership season has been an intriguing 15 weeks of some fascinating football.

As the season reached the halfway mark at the weekend, it is interesting to note that at least six clubs are in the running for the championship.

Leaders Highlanders and sixth-placed CAPS United are only separated by three points heading into the second round of the season, which is scheduled to resume after the BancABC Sup8r quarterfinals this weekend.

Here, we take a critical look at the six teams likely to be in the title race come end of season.

Highlanders

The midseason break could not have come at a better time for the log leaders, who have lost their last two games, to Chicken Inn and CAPS United.

Kelvin Kaindu’s men looked like they were going to run away with the league, once they hit top gear in the first half of the season, but those two defeats in recent weeks have dented their charge.

Although Bosso are still at the summit courtesy of a superior goal difference, their performances against CAPS and the Gamecocks left some doubts in the minds of their supporters.

Bosso resume the season with another tough match against the resurgent Makepekepe, which could prove to be another hump in their way.

After losing the league on goal difference to Dynamos last season, Bosso will, however, have gained a lot of experience from that failed campaign.

Bosso will know they cannot afford anymore slip-ups or else they will allow the rest of the chasing pack to take advantage.

After the CAPS reverse fixture, Highlanders have some tricky fixtures lined-up; the second Bulawayo derby against Chicken Inn and a trip to Harare to face Black Mambas following hard on the heels.

Chicken Inn

After inheriting a squad that finished third in the 2013 season from the late Adam Ndlovu, new Chicken Inn coach Mandla Mpofu has done well to lead the club’s title challenge.

The Gamecocks appear to be the championship dark horse as they ended the first half of the season tied on points with Bosso.

Chicken Inn have benefitted immensely from the scoring prowess of their forward Tendai Ndoro, who is the Castle Premiership’s leading scorer with 10 goals.

Ndoro has recently earned a national team call-up to the Warriors squad for next month’s Cosafa Cup tournament in Zambia.

Last season’s best young player in the PSL, Kuda Mahachi, has also rediscovered his form at the right time for the Gamecocks after a slow start to 2013.

Mpofu has plenty of experience and talented personnel in all departments and if his side can reproduce the same level of consistence as in the first half of the season, they can go on to claim their first league title.

Dynamos

The reigning champions looked like they were going to easily surrender their title after opening the season with six draws in their opening seven matches.

Calisto Pasuwa has, however, managed to stem that slow start by putting on a terrific run that saw DeMbare work their way up to third place on the log.

DeMbare’s only defeat thus far came at the hands of Buffaloes last Wednesday but they bounced back strongly with a 3-0 win over How Mine at the weekend to move within one point of Bosso and Chicken Inn.

In the last two seasons, Dynamos have mustered the art of putting on good runs in the second half of the season and have gone on to claim the title on both occasions.

Their recent ascendency will be a major concern for the two log leaders because having DeMbare breathing down your neck can be a hectic situation. Just ask FC Platinum, they can testify to that effect.

Harare City

The Sunshine Boys are only in their second season in the top flight, but they have been outstanding and are now among the teams challenging for the title.

City coach Bigboy Mawiwi went on a massive recruitment exercise during the off-season by bringing in a number of experienced campaigners.

The Sunshine Boys are now tied on 28 points with Dynamos and are in a good position to launch their title push in the second half of the season.

City, however, wasted a good chance of ending the first half of the season in top spot when they lost 4-1 to Hwange at the weekend.

It is such performances that can go on to hamper their title challenge. In their next three matches, City will face Hwange in the return fixture before taking on Monomotapa and FC Platinum.

All three can be tricky fixtures and they are likely to determine whether they can keep pace with the rest of the chasing pack.

FC Platinum

The Zvishavane-based platinum miners seem to have a tendency of pressing the self-destruct button when they are in good positions.

It seems they are still traumatised by that 2011 debut season in the top-flight when they lost the title to Dynamos in the penultimate match after leading the log standings for the better part of the season.

After a bright start under new coach Tenant Chilumba, Platinum went for five games without a win as background boardroom squabbles took their toll on the team.

Chilumba was hounded out of the club as he could no longer cope with the excessive demands the club’s executive had placed on him.

The former Hwange coach quit the club earlier this month and returned to his native Zambia to take charge of Copperbelt side Power Dynamos.

Platinum have now appointed Lloyd Mutasa and Tendai Chikuni to work together on an interim basis until the end of the season.

The pair has a good chance to lead the Midlands outfit to their maiden league title as they are only two points behind Highlanders.

CAPS United

The Green Machine has turned around their season with a five-game unbeaten run that has seen them move to within three points of Highlanders.

After missing pre-season preparations due to his suspension in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal, Makepekepe coach Taurai Mangwiro seems to have struck the right balance within his squad.

The same side that beat Hwange in midweek is the same that started in their 2-1 win over Highlanders.

Rahman Kutsanzira is slowly gaining his fitness while Dominic Chungwa and Leonard Fiyado are sharing the goals.

Inconsistency has been Makepekepe’s major weakness in recent seasons, but if they can put on a decent run of wins when the season resumes, they can be a serious threat to the log leaders.

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