By Ricky Zililo
Highlanders’ technical team decision to hand right-back McClive Phiri the captain’s armband for their opening game against bogey side, Black Rhinos, paid off as the roving defender led Bosso to a priceless away point.
Bosso came from behind to force a 1-1 draw against Rhinos, with goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda scoring from the penalty spot.
The result means Highlanders, who last picked points against Black Rhinos in a 3-0 win in Harare in 2013, managed to avoid defeat against the army side away for the first time in six years.
Saturday’s visit to Harare against Black Rhinos was Highlanders’ fourth since their last victory in the capital, having lost 1-0 in 2014, the year Black Rhinos were relegated from the Premiership.
The army side returned to the Premiership in 2017, and beat Highlanders 3-0 in Harare. Last year, Bosso suffered a 1-0 defeat.
On Saturday, Moses Demera appeared to have fired Black Rhinos to another victory after capitalising on a defensive mix-up, but Highlanders, led by surprise captain Phiri, fought on and dominated their hosts at the National Sports Stadium.
Phiri kept urging his teammates to attack, whilst overlapping to add numbers in attack and was quick to regain his ground and defend.
Bosso won a 67th minute penalty as Zambian International Peter Nyirenda broke loose on the left side and unleashed a powerful strike, which hit the upright and the rebound was handled by Tafadzwa Jaravani. Sibanda then scored from the spot.
Nyirenda became an instant darling with the Highlanders fans with his mazy runs that kept Rhinos’ defenders guessing.
He played on the right side of attack, moved to the centre and even to the left.
The Zambian combined well with Prince Dube and with a bit of luck, Nyirenda could have found his name on the score card.
Utility player, Mbekezeli Sibanda, also had a good day in the office for Bosso playing at left-back. Just like Phiri, Sibanda often found himself in scoring positions and was quick to switch back to defence whenever he lost possession.
Winger, Cleopas Kapupurike, signed from perennial rivals Dynamos, played for 53 minutes before making way for Nyirenda and gave a good account of himself.
While the whole Bosso team put their pre-season “fracas” behind them following the strike that saw them waste three weeks of training, it is their fighting spirit and ability to work as a team that should be commended.
It is not clear whether Phiri, whose luck saw him leading his peers to a good start against bogey size, Rhinos, will be given the armband permanently going into the game against Caps United at Barbourfields Stadium this Sunday.
“The technical team hasn’t chosen the captain. Whoever wears the armband on the day is the captain. Before choosing a captain, naturally there is a process that the technical team does to come up with a candidate that they think has the best attributes to be the captain for the season. So once a captain is named, the technical team will make the announcement,” said Nhlanhla Dube, the Highlanders chief executive officer. The Chronicle