By Augustine Hwata
There will come a time when, Highlanders will lose a match in the Castle Lager Premiership this year, but the big question is whether it’s going to be today against their former coach Mkhupali Masuku.
In 2004, CAPS United had a similar unbeaten run, in the year they were crowned champions in 2004 and for 15 matches they just could not lose. One day, they met Bosso at the National Sports Stadium, in the Green Machine’s 16th match of the season and a see-saw thriller ended 4-3 in favour of Highlanders.
It was the only game that CAPS United lost that year in the league. As fate would have it, CAPS United and Highlanders meet again in a game that could end a lengthy unbeaten run for one of the teams.
For the CAPS faithful, the arrival of “Mr Cooper,” as Masuku is affectionately known, this week as assistant coach to Taurai Mangwiro, could provide them with inside knowledge of Bosso. Masuku, a former Bosso midfielder and coach, will be out to stop Highlanders.
During his sabbatical, Masuku said he had been attending most of Highlanders home matches and could just be the man to stop Bosso’s unbeaten run today. Both Mangwiro and Masuku are not under-pressure to win as CAPS United go into the match as underdogs.
CAPS United have failed to win their last five league matches and four of them had been defeats to Highlanders, Dynamos and Hwange (twice). Mangwiro is confident that CAPS United could turn the tables against Bosso. Mangwiro parted ways with Monomotapa last week and today’s assignment will be his first at CAPS United
He is well aware that Monoz were thumped 3-0 during the first half while CAPS United were also beaten at Barbourfields. “We should be ready to play any team and Highlanders have done very well, but it does not make them invincible. There is always a first for everything and come Saturday it could CAPS United.
“We know it won’t be an easy game,” said Mangwiro.
Mangwiro said he would not make wholesale changes to the team assembled by Sean Connor and Lloyd Chitembwe. Bosso are coming into the match with their confidence high after a 7-0 win over Quelaton, but their coach Kelvin Kaindu has warned his charges.
Midfielder Peter “Rio” Moyo will take his talent to Rufaro this afternoon after playing for the national team in Zambia in midweek.
It’s one of those crazy games where Dynamos fans, for once, will be backing CAPS United because a victory for the Green Machine suits their agenda in a season where Bosso have turned into their main rivals in the championship race.
There are some die-hard CAPS fans who will tell you they don’t even care if their team loses today because Bosso is a better devil to win the championship than Dynamos. However, for the true CAPS United fans, there is the issue of relegation, which now looms large and the bragging rights that comes with beating one of the giants of the game.
Mangwiro would also want to start on a winning note so that he takes away the pressure with some tough matches, including the Harare Derby, just a few weeks away. A lot would be expected from Shingi Kawondera, who is still waiting for his first goal in Green Machine colours, despite impressing in all the matches that he has played.
Others have blamed the deep role that Kawondera has been playing, since his arrival at the Green Machine, saying that he should be played in the centre of the attack. On Thursday, Kawondera told H-Metro that he was frustrated by his lack of goals and, after struggling with his fitness in the first three matches, he is now in good condition.
“It’s obvious that I get worried with my failure to score,” said Kawondera.
“I was employed to score, but I feel the burden if things are not going in that direction. Every striker worries about that, but I will be patient. I am confident that I will hit the nets soon. Once I start it will be consistent. I was struggling for the first three games, but I am back in the groove. I can play for 90 minutes.
“I can’t wait for (the) clash against the log leaders. It will be a big battle. People will judge us as underdogs, but we will be breathing fire. We just want to retain our prestige in the Premiership.”
Evans Gwekwerere, who had a rocky relationship with the coaches who were dismissed this week, is likely to get a place in the starting XI or play a big part this afternoon. Highlanders have been very solid and do not give any indications of weaknesses and their inspirational skipper, Innocent Mapuranga, returns after impressing for the Warriors in Zambia.
Bosso’s fans have been coming to cheer them in numbers and there is likely to be another huge crowd at Rufaro with the Bulawayo giants enjoying a big following in the capital. Goalkeeper Arial Sibanda was outstanding for the Warriors in Zambia and has been a pillar of strength for this Highlanders team. The Herald
Today: CAPS United v Highlanders (Rufaro); Motor Action v Chicken Inn (Motor Action Sports Club); Harare City v Shabanie Mine (Gwanzura); FC Platinum v Buffaloes (Mandava); Gunners v Hwange (Larfarge).
Tomorrow: Blue Rangers v Dynamos (Rufaro); Hardbody v Monomotapa (Ascot); Quelaton v Black Mambas (Luveve).