The Sunday News
Fungai Muderere, Senior Sports Reporter
BUOYED by impressive wins in their last fixtures, and their dugouts underlined by equally high-profile coaches, Highlanders and Ngezi Platinum Stars are expected to churn out a no holds barred encounter deep in the bowels of Baobab Stadium this afternoon.
It does not matter that, hitherto, both sides appeared to be on a “free-fall.” Neither does it matter that the two appear to have lost the grip on the destiny of the Premiership title. Nothing appears to separate the two teams on the log table save for a paltry two points, and hence an evenly-matched affair is in the offing.
Ngezi Platinum Stars guv’nor Benjani Mwaruwari will be out for a win to cement his desire for a top four finish, while Portuguese Highlanders technical manager Baltemar Jose de Oliveira Brito, will be out to maintain a fairytale start at the helm.
To add to that Brito, leads a hungry Bosso lot, a family that since 2018 has continuously been eluded by maximum points on the road. Put simply, Bosso are starring on a four-year jinx. Bosso’s last league win outside Bulawayo was on 2 July, 2018, when they pipped Triangle United 1-0 at Gibbo Stadium.
This season the black and white army has played seven matches outside Bulawayo and lost three times to Black Rhinos (2-0), Manica Diamonds (1-0) and 3-0 that was awarded to FC Platinum for the abandoned game at Mandava Stadium owing to crowd trouble. The 23 April game was abandoned with the scoreline at 1-1.
“Everyone trained well. We have a healthy team. We are wary of the weather conditions that can create some challenges for us just like in the previous match when we played on a wet pitch. We hope the boys will produce a good performance. We have been teaching them a different style of play and they are catching up.
The players are confident and happy which also makes me happy at a time when we are going to face a tough opponent. Ngezi are aggressive, they defend well and play the ball,” said the 70-year-old Oliveira Brito through his interpreter Joao Martins Leao Torres who doubles up as his assistant coach.
Added Brito: “It will not be an easy game but we have better tools. Ngezi Platinum Stars are better positioned, they have a better goal difference and they have conceded less than us but it is also not going to be an easy game for them. We need to respect them and they need to respect us because we are Highlanders.”
Interestingly, last weekend the two Baobab Stadium protagonists had a chance to spy on each other when Ngezi hammered Bulawayo City 3-0 and then when Highlanders edged a determined Black Rhinos 3-2 in matches that were both played at Barbourfields Stadium. Mwaruwari also anticipates a tough encounter against a club that provided him a platform to cut his football teeth.
“It’s a tough encounter, playing Bosso is never easy, they have a strong squad which cannot be underestimated, at any given day. I have always made it clear that Bosso shaped my career but it will not stop me from doing my job,” said the ex-Warriors captain.
Warmly known as Undertaker, Mwaruwari, who is on record saying he wants to help his charges to a top four finish, has managed three wins, 1-0 away at ZPC Kariba, 4-0 at home against Tenax and the City win. Under his reign, the Mhondoro-based outfit has also played four draws against Bulawayo Chiefs (1-1), Dynamos (0-0), Black Rhinos (1-1), and Manica Diamonds (0-0). Harare City and Whawha are the only sides that have beaten Ngezi Platinum Star under Mwaruwari, both winning by identical 1-0 score lines.