Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
BULAWAYO Chiefs, making their maiden appearance in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League have earned a reputation for being giants killers.
The Garthly Chipuka coached lads, who face Highlanders at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon, have beaten the top two teams on the log this season, with both wins recorded at Luveve Stadium. First to bite the dust were defending champions, FC Platinum who lost 2-0 in April and then last Sunday they posted the biggest shock when they conquered Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0.
Heading into that match last Sunday, Madamburo were yet to taste defeat in the league and it was hard to imagine that their unbeaten run would be brought to an end by Amakhosi Amahle.
A Gracious Mleya first half penalty settled it all in a match that was filled with drama. Referee Hardly Ndazi flashed two red cards to Ngezi Platinum players, Clive Augosto and Xolisani Moyo, who had come in as second half substitutes. The Hwange-based Ndazi also booked Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Donovan Bernard, which ruled him out of yesterday’s crucial fixture against FC Platinum.
Highlanders are third on the log with 29 points, these picked from eight wins, five draws and two losses. Bulawayo Chiefs on the other hand have secured 15 points with three wins, six draws while they have been beaten the same number of times.
Both teams were victorious last weekend with Highlanders recording a 2-1 victory over Harare City a day before Chiefs pulled off the shocker over Ngezi Platinum. Today’s encounter certainly promises fireworks with the two Bulawayo teams high on confidence.
Highlanders are hampered by injuries to key players with the situation not helped by the absence of Andrew Mbeba who was set off against Harare City. Tendai Ndlovu, Bukhosi Ncube, Thabo Lunga, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Honest Moyo as well as Gabriel Nyoni all injured with slim chances of them playing a part in today’s encounter.
Ariel Sibanda has been good in goals since his blunder cost his side against ZPC Kariba and should be given the nod again this afternoon. Peter Muduhwa, MacClive Phiri and Charlton Siamalonga are certain to give Sibanda good cover at the back. With a number of injuries to his defenders, Highlanders coach Madinda Ndlovu has some serious considerations to make if he is going with a four men backline.
Highlanders were boosted by the return of their star player Nigel Makumbe who made an immediate impact when he scored against Harare City. If the midfielder, on loan from FC Platinum, combines well with Brian Banda, Adrian Silla, Patrick Musaka, Godfrey Makaruse, then Chiefs could be in all sorts of trouble.
Ozias Zibande has been stuck on four goals for a while and today is an opportunity for him to increase his tally if given an opportunity. Newman Sianchali played a whole 90 minutes last Saturday without finding the target and is also under pressure to deliver the goals.
Chiefs certainly have nothing to lose as the odds are heavily stacked against them. Chipuka’s boys will certainly be looking to cause yet another upset this afternoon. Moses Majika has the necessary experience, Perfect Chikwende has the skill and these two will look to inspire their teammates to victory over Highlanders.
Troubled Dynamos are away to Mutare City Rovers, which is a tricky fixture for the Glamour Boys considering that their opponents beat Caps United 2-1 in Harare last Sunday. Shabanie Mine go up against Black Rhinos while Yadah face Chapungu at the National Sports Stadium.