By Ricky Zililo
MIDLANDS-based referee Munyaradzi Majoni almost spoiled Sunday’s blockbuster Castle Lager Premier Soccer League clash between Dynamos and Highlanders at Rufaro Stadium with some embarrassing officiating.
The encounter ended 1-1, with Highlanders first to score through Tinashe Makanda, before a late equaliser from Evans Katema ensured a share of the spoils.
Majoni appeared overwhelmed with handling the country’s flagship clash, something that irked Highlanders coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, who felt the referee failed to protect his players and denied them numerous free-kicks.
Besides failing to collect maximum points on a bumpy Rufaro Stadium pitch, the uneven playing surface, which De Jongh felt was worse than his backyard garden, affected Highlanders’ newfound passing game.
Both sets of players struggled to string meaningful passes on the bumpy surface.
Before kick-off, mind games were at play, as Dynamos’ officials denied the Highlanders’ team entry into the stadium, keeping the gates locked for about 35 minutes.
When the gates were eventually opened, the passage to the away team’s dressing room was closed, forcing Bosso players to access the pitch via the stands.
De Jongh expressed shock at how professional football is run in Zimbabwe, saying it was the first time in his 29-year career coaching in 12 countries that he had witnessed the away team being denied entry into the match venue and access to the dressing rooms.
He also blasted the state of the Rufaro Stadium pitch as not fit for professional football, more so the so called “Battle of Zimbabwe”.
The Bosso coach also questioned referee Majoni’s handling of the match, saying he gave Bosso a raw deal by denying them free kicks in the Dynamos half. He claimed 18 free kicks for Bosso were in their own half while just two were awarded in the Dynamos half.
De Jongh blamed lack of communication between his defenders for Dynamos’ equaliser, although he should equally shoulder the fault by making a wrong substitution.
He pulled out striker Godfrey Makaruse for central defender Tendai Ndlovu in a clear effort to defend the one goal, but it backfired, as Dynamos equalised immediately after that change.
Dynamos threw all their men forward, and it wasn’t surprising that their set piece was a suspicious foul called by the out of sorts Majoni.
Sunday’s draw saw Bosso slipping into seventh place from fifth, tied on 40 points with Dynamos, who have an inferior goal difference.
In the championship race, the top two teams Caps United and FC Platinum hit a snag, as they both suffered losses to relegation-threatened sides.
Caps United, who top the table with 51 points from 29 games, were felled 2-0 by TelOne, blowing an opportunity to open a five-point lead over second-placed FC Platinum on 49 points.
The platinum miners were shocked 1-0 by Bulawayo Chiefs at Mandava Stadium. Chiefs’ win took their points’ tally to 34, three points above the red zone.
Herentals, who drew 0-0 with Harare City, occupy the last relegation slot with 31 points.
Meanwhile, Hwange’s 13-match winless streak ended with a 1-0 win over Mushowani Stars at the Colliery Stadium.
The coalminers moved a place up the table into 16th, as their fight for survival continues.
Saturday: Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0 Manica Diamonds, FC Platinum 0-1 Bulawayo Chiefs, Herentals 0-0 Harare City.
Sunday: Dynamos 1-1 Highlanders, Yadah 1-0 Chapungu, ZPC Kariba 1-0 Black Rhinos, Hwange 1-0 Mushowani Stars, TelOne 2-0 Caps United.The Chronicle