Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders ……………………………………………….. (0) 1
Tsholotsho ………………………………………………….. (1) 2
LESS than a week after being knocked out of the Chibuku Super Cup by Ngezi Platinum Stars, Highlanders had their Castle Lager Premier Soccer League championship quest shattered when they went down to Tsholotsho at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
A brace by Nixon Gama in either half saw Tsholotsho record their first ever victory over Highlanders in four meetings between the two sides since Iziqholo Ze Zhwane got into the top flight last season. Veteran striker Ralph Matema scored the solitary goal for Highlanders.
With log leaders Caps United beating Harare City 1-0 at Rufaro Stadium and FC Platinum 2-0 victorious over Chapungu at Ascot, Highlanders have gone down to third place, having headed into yesterday’s fixtures on second spot. Bosso are now four points behind Caps United and trail their next opponents FC Platinum by two points with the same number of matches remaining.
Highlanders coach Erol Akbay said with Makepekepe victorious over the Sunshine Boys, Bosso now have to concentrate on finishing second or third. The Dutchman felt that they lost while they played good football which is what pained him the most as they were creating a lot of chances but not taking them.
“It was actually a very good match, from our side we played good football, but you see that the same story is coming in, we are not scoring and if you are not scoring you cannot win. If you make two stupid mistakes and get two goals against you if you don’t score that means you also have to defend to make sure that nobody can score against you.
“We lose a bit of concentration and those guys scored two times, it’s after a very long time that opponents score two goals against us, it’s very disappointing the way we are not scoring. For us I think it’s over for the championship, I think what we can do is for second or third place,’’ said Akbay.
Tsholotsho assistant coach Farai Tawachera, standing in for Lizwe Sweswe who is said to have lost his voice while issuing out instructions to his players pointed out that they had realised that Highlanders had a major weakness in terms of defending on their wings, something they managed to exploit well.
“It was a tough game, derbies are always difficult, we had planned for this game and we knew where to attack, our game plan worked well, we watched Highlanders a lot of times and then we realised that if you go via the wings they don’t defend crosses, if you look at our goals it is a result of that, it’s still game on, we take each game as it comes let’s see what happens at the end of the day,’’ said Tawachera.
Highlanders enjoyed much of the attacking impetus with Simon Munawa’s shot deflected for a corner in the fourth minute.
Three minutes later, Munawa’s attempt came off a Tsholotsho defender. Rahman Kutsanzira drew a fine save off Tsholotsho goalkeeper Nickel Marichi in the 13th minute. From that corner kick, Allen Gahadzikwa almost punished Tsholotsho with Marichi making a save at the second attempt.
Tsholotsho had the lead in the 17th minute, Gama connecting well with a cross sent in from the left by skipper Nkosilathi Moyo to beat a badly exposed Ariel Sibanda. Prince Dube had his powerful shot in the 26th minute saved by Marichi as Bosso fought for an equaliser. Dube unleashed yet another shot three minutes into the referee’s added time but Marichi was up to the task.
Tsholotsho doubled their lead five minutes into the second half, Gama taking advantage of poor defending by Highlanders to beat Sibanda.
Soon after that second Tsholotsho goal, Akbay brought in veteran striker Matema for right back Benson Phiri. Speedy Gabriel Nyoni also had his place on the field taken by Godfrey Makuruse. Matema pulled one back for Highlanders in the 58th minute, from an Honest Moyo free taken on the left side, the seasoned forward having an exchange of passes with Dube before “Banolila” fired into the nets. Mudzingwa had his header from a Dube taken corner kick come off the bar in the 65th minute.
With a minute to go, Munawa saw his bicycle kick go over the bar. In the fifth minute of injury time, MacClive Phiri could have made it three for Tsholotsho only for Sibanda to come up with a spectacular save as he tipped the ball for a corner.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Rahman Kutsanzira, Simon Munawa, Prince Dube, Tendai Ndlovu, Peter Muduhwa, Benson Phiri(Matema 51 minutes), Honest Moyo, Erick Mudzingwa, Gabriel Nyoni (Makaruse 56 minutes), Allen Gahadzikwa (Banda 79 minutes)
Tsholotsho: Nickel Marichi, Nkosana Siwela, Nkosilathi Moyo, Trust Nyabinde, George Magariro, Zimiseleni Moyo, Bruno Madanire (Sibanda 76 minutes), Rodrick Mufudza, Ayanda Ncube (Dube 87 minutes), Nixon Gama (Ponyera 62 minutes), MacClive Phiri.