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High-flying Highlanders get rude awakening

By Ricky Zililo

Highlanders got a rude awakening when they stumbled 0-1 to Ngezi Platinum Stars in the Chibuku Super Cup semi-final at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday, leaving coach Erol Akbay disappointed with his players’ wastefulness in front of goal.

Highlanders Dutch coach Elroy Akbay
Highlanders Dutch coach Elroy Akbay

The Dutchman was visibly frustrated with his team’s failure to convert a host of scoring opportunities they created.

Having ridden on the crest of a wave for a couple of months that brought a sense of belief to Bosso supporters, Ngezi stunned them in front of their home supporters courtesy of a 62nd minute Liberty Chakoroma penalty after defender Peter Muduhwa had handled inside the box.

Akbay challenged his players to lift their game, failure of which could cost them crucial points in the league.

For a team that started the second half of the season badly by only managing a point from a possible 15, the Highlanders coach is hopeful the weekend’s defeat won’t be a setback in their title chase.

Before the Ngezi game, Highlanders had gone on a nine-match winning streak in all competitions.

“It was a bad game on our side. Everybody wasn’t good enough to win us the game because the players were failing to make those off the ball runs, forcing us to play the ball back to the keeper and restart the game. Now we’ve to focus on the championship because we were a little bit surprised to lose to Ngezi Platinum as we have been playing well,” said Akbay.

“I guess now the players know that if we don’t score we lose games and as a coach I don’t want to be losing games at this stage of the season. At least at the beginning of the season there is time to correct the mistakes, but now you can’t afford that,” Akbay said.

He admitted that the championship race will not be easy and expects his players to put in extra effort.

“All our games are tricky and playing a team that is fighting for survival is difficult. We can’t underrate them and I think the guys learnt a lesson against Ngezi Platinum.

“Every chance counts and we have to turn them in. I want everyone to work hard and make sure we end the season on a high note. I’ll be happy if we win all our last three games,” said Akbay.

How Bosso responds against a Tsholotsho FC side whose players were on strike last week will be key ahead of the Week 29 clash against FC Platinum at Mandava in Zvishavane.

Tsholotsho FC are second from the bottom of the league table with 23 points, two behind Mutare City Rovers who are a place above the relegation zone.

Akbay said he also expects an improved performance from players such as Muduhwa, who had a subdued game and made a couple of mistakes, one of which eventually cost the team, Gabriel Nyoni, who missed clear cut chances, Simon Munawa and Prince Dube.

Munawa played the game with a heavily bandaged knee and maybe because of fear of hurting himself, the midfielder failed to stamp his authority and was later pulled out.

His replacement King Nadolo rarely troubled his opponents, as he unnecessarily gave away possession.

PSL weekend fixtures

Saturday, October 29: Harare City v Caps United (Rufaro), Ngezi Platinum Stars v Hwange (Baobab), Chapungu v FC Platinum (Ascot), Highlanders v Tsholotsho FC (Barbourfields)

Sunday, October 30: Border Strikers v Triangle United (Dulivhadzimo), Dynamos v Mutare City (Rufaro), How Mine v Chicken Inn (Luveve), Bulawayo City v ZPC Kariba (Barbourfields). The Chronicle

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