Akbay basks in glory

HARARE - Highlanders coach Erol Akbay is convinced the title race will go down to the wire, while insisting their eyes are now firmly on the coveted Castle Lager Premiership trophy.

Bosso’s 2-1 victory over bitter rivals Dynamos on Sunday has put pressure on both FC Platinum and CAPS United as the title race enters the home stretch with just seven matches left before the season ends.

The Bulawayo giants rallied from a goal down to beat DeMbare with defender Tendai Ndlovu cancelling a Masimba Mambare first half strike before Ralph Matema sealed maximum points for Bosso late in the second half.

The win also ensured Bosso completed a rare double over their bitter rivals, having won 0-2 in the reverse fixture earlier this year at Rufaro Stadium. 

The Bulawayo giants now find themselves trailing log leaders FC Platinum by six points and five behind second-placed CAPS United, something Akbay feels is not much of an issue in their chase for glory.

While the growing body of opinion is, however, backing the notion that FC Platinum and Makepekepe are the favourites, Akbay is convinced things will get more complicated at this stage of the season, giving his charges hope to overtake the leading pack.

“It was very important to get the three points for us to keep the pressure on the leading teams,” Akbay told the Daily News yesterday.

“We are in a good position with seven matches to play. That is 21 points, a lot of points, so anything can still happen in the race. I think we are firmly in contention for the title.

“We are happy with how we are doing at this stage of the season.

“Obviously, there are going to be a lot of twist and turns. What is important for us at this stage is to remain consistent. We just need to win our remaining matches. I strongly feel that it’s very possible for us to win the title.”

Akbay added that he hopes FC Platinum will at least lose one game before they travel to Mandava Stadium for the reverse fixture against Norman Mapeza’s side.

“The league is becoming more physical at this stage,” Akbay said.

“If FC Platinum draw and lose one match then we are okay. We are also hoping that CAPS United will slip up. As for FC Platinum, we will take care of them ourselves when we meet in the reverse fixture.”

Akbay arrived at Highlanders at the start of the season and was tasked to turn around fortunes of a club that last landed the championship in 2006 under the guidance of Methembe Ndlovu.

The Bulawayo giants had a difficult 2015 season which saw them fight relegation at some point before finishing sixth on the log table — the reason the team’s hierarchy chose to settle for the unheralded Dutch coach.

Akbay says morale in his camp is very high, especially after beating Dynamos.

“Of course, it feels good beating Dynamos one of the best teams in this country. You can actually see that players are motivated and we are we want to carry on,” he said.

It is not only Akbay, who is confident of being crowned champions as CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe also preaching the same gospel in the wake of his team’s 1-0 win over Chicken Inn.

Chitembwe revealed his team is firmly in the title race and will fight until the last day. After Leonard Tsipa’s solitary strike earned the Green Machine maximum points, Chitembwe revealed his side is geared up for the fight.

“We needed the result and we got exactly that. I thought our ambition remains the same, we have always wanted to be champions and it’s very clear considering the way we are grinding out results,” Chitembwe said.

“We have a good chance just like any other team in the league. We are extremely happy with the situation that we found ourselves in today. Our chances are realistic. They are as good as FC Platinum’s, Highlanders I don’t know (about) Dynamos.

“We have been very consistent and I am sure if my memory serves me well, we have never been out of the top three ever since the season started, so that tells you about our ambitions and intentions.”

Chitembwe further highlighted that his team have strong depth to cope with at this stage.

“We have embraced pressure as a team. Anyone in the team is prepared to take up responsibility. We are not the kind of team that cries or moans over the absence of some key players,” Chitembwe said.

“We missed four or five key players today (Sunday), it has always been the case that we are missing key players but we keep on pulling results and I am ... happy and with the way things are going.”

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