BULAWAYO - Highlanders new coach Erol Akbay announced his arrival at the Bulawayo giants when his charges beat league champions Chicken Inn 4-2 on penalties to progress to the semi-finals of ZNA Charities Shield yesterday.
Bosso, who are the defending champions, had to come from behind to force the tie into a straight penalty shootout.
The Gamecocks scored first when Obadiah Tarumbwa punished his former team with a clinical finish from close range a minute before the break.
Tarumbwa, who did not celebrate his goal, capitalised on defensive blunders by the Bosso rearguard by dispossessing Eric Mudzingwa in the box before slotting the ball past an exposed Ariel Sibanda in goals for Highlanders.
Bosso returned from the break with more vigour but young Chicken Inn goalie Pride Zendera became a darling of many as he kept his team in the game with some marvellous saves.
Despite missing some key players including captain Danny Phiri, Lawrence Mhlanga, Edmore Chirambadare, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Elvis Chipezeze, George Majika and coach Joey Antipas who took a rest, the Gamecocks still appeared resolute in all departments.
However, the impressive Chicken Inn goalie was finally beaten after hardworking left back Bruce Kangwa equalised for Bosso with 16 minutes to go.
After that, Bosso were a house on fire as the goal seemed to have inspired enough confidence but Chicken Inn held on.
Despite defending deep for the remainder of the match, Chicken Inn had their chances too as substitute Mitchell Katsvairo and Tarumbwa took turns to miss.
In the shootout, Bosso goalie Sibanda emerged as the hero after saving penalties from defender Guide Goddard and new signing Physwell Madhazi.
Only Katsvairo and Brian Juru were successful from the spot for the Gamecocks.
On the other hand, Kangwa, Knox Mtizwa, Rahman Kutsanzira and Mudzingwa all beat Zendera, to maintain their team’s dominance over their city counterparts in cup matches.
After the game, Akbay said, despite the win there was still a long way to shape his charges into a wining machine.
“The first half was not okay but the second half was much better, we have a lot to do,” he said.
“We are still looking at how best we want to play. In two weeks you cannot have the team playing the way you want, that is not possible but we are looking at the best for our team.”
Despite the loss, Chicken Inn assistant coach Prince Matore was convinced about his team’s performance.
“They played well, it was a good display you know penalty kicks is anyone’s take,” he said.