By Fatima Bulla
Like the Battle of Armageddon which signifies the battle of end-times, the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League clash at Rufaro Stadium between Dynamos and Highlanders has all the ingredients of a similar affair.
While Armageddon is a fight to conquer evil by good, this clash speaks everything good to the winner of the probable decider who might snatch the US$600 000 worth championship title.
With five matches remaining before the end of the season, Dynamos sit atop the log with 58 points from 25 matches but are not comfortable as Highlanders trail them by only two points.
As Highlanders nurse the wounds of having been booted out of the Mbada Diamonds Cup after throwing away a two-goal cushion to lose 3-2 to Monomotapa, Dynamos should be in the seventh heaven after beating Gunners 3-0 to storm into the semi-finals.
We are reminded once more that pride is at stake for either side with neither of the teams desiring to be a customer of the other after the first encounter in Bulawayo ended in a stalemate.
While it will be fit for Dynamos to remind their foes that Rufaro Stadium is their favourite hunting ground where the mighty have fallen, Highlanders look out to quash the history that the same venue is an abattoir in which they have a tendency of being slaughtered especially when they meet the blue and white side whom they have not managed to defeat since 2006.
The giants’ clash at the same venue last year left the Bulawayans bruised with a 3-1 defeat. Both teams have had good runs in their last four premiership matches in which they won three and lost only once, Bosso for the first time this season.
But Dynamos have managed to handle their nerves much better when they are in Barbourfields coming with a point in the stalemate played out in the first half of the season and even the one-all draw last year.
On the contrary, Highlanders come back with memories still fresh in their mind that it was at Rufaro Stadium that Monomotapa humiliated them by a 3-0 deficit after a rosy patch that yielded victories over Black Mambas (1-0), Hwange (1-0) and Shabanie (1-0).
In the corresponding period, Dynamos thumped Shabanie Mine 4-1, Hwange 2-0 and Motor Action 1-0 while being frustrated 1-0 by Bulawayo side Chicken Inn.
Dynamos has already been dealt a heavy blow after Guthrie Zhokinyi was deactivated by a life ban for alleged involvement in the Asiagate scandal while George Magariro, Milton Makopa and Desmond Maringwa have also been ruled out.
Partson Jaure is back after a domestic scuffle which had left him with a cut on his hand while Timire Mamvura and Augustine Mbara, who are awaiting the outcome of their own cases in the Asiagate case, have also been roped into the starting side.
However, it could be another battle on who brings his boots to the field when Highlanders’ Milton Ncube and Denver Mukamba both with 10 goals apiece lead from the front as top marksmen.
Not to be forgotten is predator Masimba Mambare and Rodrick Mutuma who are also deadlocked on eight goals apiece. Mambare, a player only fashioned for the kill, is one to count on mainly when the chips are down while unpredictable Mukamba can always pull a beguling trick out of his bag.
Highlanders gaffer Kelvin Kaindu boasts of a team with a clean medical bill going into this encounter hoping that their classical passing game will come to their good.
“I think we have lost once at Rufaro and also beat CAPS United there. The loss was due to loss of concentration.
“Our strength is our self-belief and the attacking game that we play. We have confidence in the entire team though at times you can single out players like Masimba Mambare who has been scoring not only crucial but beautiful goals.
“We also have confidence in the defence taking into consideration that even top clubs make mistakes,” Kaindu said.
His captain Innocent Mapuranga, who is leading Highlanders for the first time in such a high profile encounter, said history will not come into play.
“This is a different year, 2012, different players, a different technical department and my team will come out tops. We know Dynamos will come on us in the first minutes but we can contain them,” said the Warriors defender.
Mapuranga does not think the game will decide who will lay his hands on the title.
“There are more games to play for but it is important to win so that we remove the pressure in the coming games,” he added.
Although the pundits scales are tilted in Dynamos favour, Tonderai Ndiraya, the team’s assistant coach, acknowledged they were meeting a rejuvenated side.
“This is a new game altogether though we have had dominance over them. The fact that we used to win in Barbourfields and now we are drawing is evident of that. But we hope to take advantage of being at home and continue our dominance over them,” he said.
Dynamos captain for the day, Tawanda Muparati was full of confidence when approached on the last day of training.
“We don’t have any pressure at all. We are just going to defeat these guys although the fact that we have dominated them for the past six years is neither here nor there,” he said.
It remains to be seen, however, as to what will happen as BancABC had offered US$15 000 prize money coupled with US$5 000 for a goal scored in less than five minutes, US$3 000 for each goal and an added US$1 300 for the man of the match while the PSL stood resolute at not allowing any other hand in the Castle Lager sponsored match.
This should also affect BancABC curtain raiser game between Dynamos and Highlanders’ legends and the reward of fuel coupons offered for the best dressed super fan and the best moves displayed by a fan in celebration of a goal.
Gate charges will be US$5 for the rest of the ground, US$10 for VIP and US$20 for the VVIP stand.
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.