Game of death as title race enters crucial phase

HARARE - This season’s Castle Lager Premiership title battle is entering a critical phase and promises to be a thrilling fight to the death.

All the favourite teams — Chicken Inn, Ngezi Platinum Stars, Dynamos and FC Platinum picked up maximum points over the weekend.

Chicken Inn maintained their top spot following a hard-fought 1-0 victory over battling Hwange to move to 48 points on the log table.

The Gamecocks’ win was their third on the trot and again they had to rely on the fine form of their skipper Moses Jackson, who scored the winner.

Jackson was also on target when Rahman Gumbo’s men dispatched Black Rhinos 0-1 two weeks ago as they further show their intent of wrestling the championship back to Bulawayo.

But, while the technical input of Gumbo is a huge factor in the Gamecocks’ push, the former Highlanders coach will, however, be desperate to see his strikers doing more in front of goal.

It should be worrisome for Gumbo considering that the number of chances the 2015 champions are creating do not merit the number of goals they are scoring.

While there is still room for a lot more twists and turns in the remaining matches, one of the biggest strengths the Gamecocks have this season is the incredible depth in almost every department.

Second-placed Ngezi Platinum Stars made a quick response to bounce back to winning ways with an impressive 3-0 victory over fading giants Highlanders.

It was quite an encouraging win for the platinum miners who were coming from a morale-sapping defeat at the hands of CAPS United.

There is little doubt that Tonderai Ndiraya’s men are among the favourites for the league title if they do not capitulate in the remaining 11 matches of the season.

Ngezi remain two points behind Chicken Inn with 44 points having all played 23 matches.

It will be interesting to see how Ngezi fare against other title rivals as they still have to play Chicken Inn, Dynamos and FC Platinum in a phase that could be crucial to their title charge.

The platinum miners are blessed to have such players like Terrence Dzvukamanja, Tichaona Mabvura, Donald Teguru and Keith Marera who all  have been consistent so far this season.

Ndiraya was impressed with his charges after their win against Bosso.

“Highlanders are a very good side, a big team for that matter. So we have done well against a big team in the country,” he said.

“I understand that there was a debate lately that we were doing well against small teams and failing against big teams so I think it was good to prove ourselves.

“We are a small fish in the pond for you to be surrounded by Dynamos, CAPS United and Chicken Inn.

“I think we have done well. Our team targets are top four and we will keep focus and ensure we achieve that. 

“There is a lot to play for and yes we will keep eyes on the title.”

Dynamos maintained their march towards an unprecedented 22nd league title following a routine 2-0 victory over Yadah FC with inform pair of Ocean Mushure and Christian Ntouba scoring.

It was Dynamos’ fifth straight win to ensure they remain third on the log with 45 points, three behind Chicken Inn.

But, crucially, for the Glamour Boys they have two matches in hand which could see them go top of the log if they pick up maximum points in both the matches.

Judging by their current form DeMbare are no doubt in formidable shape to challenge for the title.

Lloyd Mutasa’s men have surpassed expectations but team president Kenny Mubaiwa appears to be applying some mind games saying their sole focus is on rebuilding not winning the league.

“Our target remains that of rebuilding and we are not even thinking of winning the title this season,” Mubaiwa told the Daily News.

“We have said let’s use this season to build a strong team that can compete in the years to come and we cannot focus on winning the title at the same time rebuilding. If it happens that we win the title it will only be a bonus to us.

“The coaches are not under any pressure whatsoever to win the title. And I think so far they have done quite a good job. If people can call you title contenders in their rebuilding phase it means you are doing well.

“We will see how it goes at the end of the season.”

FC Platinum also kept pressure on the top three after dispatching Black Rhinos 1-0 at home to ensure they remain three points behind log leaders Chicken Inn.

The platinum miners are unlikely to be ruled out of the title race based on their experience and the quality players they have at their disposal.

Saturday: Yadah v Bantu Rovers (NSS), Bulawayo City v ZPC Kariba (White City, 1pm), How Mine v Chicken Inn (White City, 3pm), Harare City v Tsholotsho (Rufaro, 1pm, SS), Black Rhinos v Triangle United (Rufaro, 3pm, SS)

Sunday: CAPS United v Dynamos (National Sports, SS), Highlanders v Chapungu (White City), Hwange v FC Platinum (Colliery), Shabanie Mine v Ngezi Platinum (Maglas).

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