By Augustine Hwata
An early goal, a later howler and a record crowd were the major characteristics of the 2012 Battle of Zimbabwe II as giants Dynamos and Highlanders remained deadlocked after a bruising Castle Lager Premier Soccer League tie at Rufaro yesterday.
Dynamos striker Simba Sithole appeared to have settled the matters with a 11th minute strike but his goalkeeper George Chigova then handed Bosso a vital point on the road with a schoolboy blunder that saw him turn a harmless cross into his own goal, seven minutes from time.
With Rufaro packed to the rafters and the Premier Soccer League putting the paying crowed at over 28 600, the stage had been set for the biggest game on the domestic scene this year. And despite just having two goals, the match lived up to its billing and set the stage for an intense finish to the title race.
This because two points remain the gap between these two teams with Dynamos the side still with the advantage. And by the way, there was a huge glaring miss by Dynamos striker Farai Mupasiri to fire home into open goal and help the Glamour Boys open a five-point lead.
But the former rugby player somehow miscued his connection with a low Denver Mukamba cross to drive the ball wide when the blues masses, naturally the majority in this bumper crowd had risen in anticipation of a goal.
Of course, former Zimbabwe youth international goalkeeper Chigova would be the easy target for a villain but Mupasari was equally a fall guy with his glaring miss on the other end that could have given DeMbare the insurance goal.
In his howler, Chigova failed to deal with a harmless high ball from Bruce Kangwa, which somehow fooled him as he spilled it into the net in the 83rd minute.
Chigova, who for his height somehow still finds problems with crosses from either flank, took the blame for the mistake and was a sorry sight as he wept after the match with his coach Callisto Pasuwa rushing in to console and take him to the dressing room.
Those of a hooligan nature among the Dynamos fans were baying for the young goalkeeper’s blood. DeMbare had taken the lead after Sithole beat Warriors goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda in the 11th minute from inside the box.
Sithole received the ball and managed to shake off Bosso centre back Eric Mudzingwa before he turned and fired past Sibanda.
The early goal settled the Dynamos nerves but Highlanders, to their credit did not panic despite the setback as their captain and centre back Innocent Mapuranga rallied his troops to regroup and reorganise.
The match had been billed as the championship decider and there was a sell-out crowd of nearly 30 000 while the league sponsors Delta and the clubs’ financiers BancABC tried to hype the match with a number of activities including a match between Highlanders and Dynamos yesteryear players.
At the end of the day, Dynamos maintained their two-point advantage over second-placed Highlanders who have 57 points.
The result yesterday meant the league race would be decided on yet another day as the championship surely heads to the wire, just like last year when FC Platinum and Dynamos needed the final day’s results to know the winner.
Dynamos had more clear cut chances in the opening half with one of them falling to Denver Mukamba who worked his way past Knox Mtizwa before attempting at goal.
Highlanders’ best chance in the early stages fell to Masimba Mambare in the 15th minute, but the usually reliable forward fluffed the opportunity when he failed to finish the move.
Dynamos — who had an upper hand in midfield — could have increased the lead in the 19th minute through Devon Chafa who came on a strong run, but directed his shot just over the bar while Sithole could have done better in the 32nd minute when he headed wide.
Mupasiri then worked his way past left back Kangwa and then whipped a high ball that found Sithole unmarked inside the box but the former Mamelodi Sundowns striker directed his header off the mark.
Highlanders pulled out Mambare, who had seeemingly been overawed by the occasion and brought on Graham Ncube to help Mthulisi Maphosa and Bhekimpilo Ncube in the midfield battles in the second half.
After the changes, Highlanders began to venture forward more while Maphosa, who had a quieter first half, was now visible. Maphosa did most of the dirty work and tried to thwart the creative Mukamba.
But it was Dynamos who could have increased their lead in the 59th minute when Mukamba carved an avenue past Lawson Nkomo and then squared a pass for Mupasiri who was unattended in the box. Mupasiri tried to connect first time, but his attempt went wide for what could have been the winning goal.
Dynamos then suffered a setback when Chafa was injured after a collision with teammate Thomas Magorimbo. Bosso hardman Maphosa was living dangerously after he received a yellow card following a lunge on Mukamba but the former TP Mazembe player continued to give his side the inspiration.
Highlanders then got the promised goal from an unlikely move when Kangwa appeared to be crossing into the box, but the ball slipped from Chigova grasps in what should have been a routine catch.
Bosso fans went into delirium and their team upped their tempo as they managed to snatch a point from the jaws of a defeat. While Highlanders were happy with a draw, in reality the Bulawayo giants have now failed to win a league match over DeMbare since 2006.
The visitors coach Kelvin Kaindu was pleased to get a draw and maintain the heat on DeMbare. “We just told ourselves that we are going to score despite us conceding an early goal. The team played quite well because we came-back and got an equaliser,” Kaindu said.
Kaindu believes their formation in which they had fewer personnel in midfield failed to work.
“I think the formation which we applied in the first half did not work according to our plan and in second half we had to change. Coming towards the end of the game, it was the third formation we had to adopt,” said Kaindu.
Kaindu said their usually dependable striker Mambare failed to rise to the occasion.
“Masimba Mambare is a key player. He got vital goals for us, but I think he was not in the game today. The race is still on and as of now there is no team that has been confirmed as champions. I do not know about relegation teams but there are still 12 more points to play for and its still a long way to go,” said Kaindu.
Dynamos assistant coach Tonderayi Ndiraya said he was happy with their performance and refused to give Chigova the flak.
“I thought we dominated and we had more opportunities than them. They got an opportunistic goal but we are still hopeful. That’s football,” said Ndiraya.
Ndiraya said Chigova still has room for improvement.
“I would not want to blame anyone for the goal because it happens in football. It was a difficult ball. If you talk to the youngster, he will tell you otherwise. It was a good performance from our guys and we are satisfied because we created chances.
“The young man has taken over from Washy and he still has a bright future ahead,” said Ndiraya.
Dynamos: G. Chigova, P. Jaure, D. Chafa, T. Magorimbo, F. Mupasiri, S. Sithole, O. Mushure (T. Mamvura min), C. Sekete, G. Bello, D. Mukamba, T. Muparati
Highlanders: A. Sibanda, I. Mapuranga, B. Ncube, E. Mudzingwa, H. Masuku, B. Kangwa, M. Maphosa, L. Nkomo, C. Dube (O. Zibande 77th min) K. Mtizwa (S. Munawa 57th min), M. Mambare (G. Ncube 53rd min).
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