The Sunday News
Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BARBOURFIELDS Stadium has never been a pleasant venue for visiting teams coming to face Bulawayo soccer giants Highlanders.
Bosso’s fans always create an intimidating atmosphere which stimulates its players and intimidate the opposition if they are mentally weak.
This afternoon, Highlanders takes on hard-pressed for victory Tonderai Ndiraya coached Simba Bhora with Bosso coach Baltemar Brito banking on his team’s supporters to play that 12th-man role and rally behind his boys.
It is an encounter that the expatriate hopes Simba Bhora will bring their A-game, to give fans real value for their money without employing time wasting tactics.
Brito understands what this game means to Simba Bhora who are coming from two consecutive identical 1-0 defeats against Green Fuel and Cranborne Bullets.
“Hopefully, they’re prepared to give fans a good game. We know that some of the teams don’t come here to play football. But I know that they want to win at this moment.
From what I read is that Simba needs to win. They say if he doesn’t win he might go, but I hope they will not come here and do like what others have been doing (time wasting).
Well, if they come with that mind (time wasting), we’ve prepared our boys to be mentally alert and fight throughout the game.
Now we want our amazing fans to come and fill Barbourfields and we promise good football. The fans are part of the winning puzzle for Highlanders,” said Brito.
Simba Bhora, making their second trip to Bulawayo have faced three former champions this season.
They lost at home 2-1 to reigning champions FC Platinum on the opening day of the season, went down 1-0 to Chicken Inn at Luveve Stadium in their first visit to Bulawayo and played to a 0-0 draw against Dynamos. Against his former team Dynamos, Ndiraya’s team was accused of playing boring football, with his players wasting time.
Players to watch
Away from the antics or tactics, Highlanders who are coming from a frustrating 0-0 draw away at Sheasham will rely on skipper Ariel Sibanda to lead them from the back. Sibanda, who was beaten to the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) April Player of the Month by Fortune Binzi of Manica Diamonds has kept six clean sheets, conceding once in Highlanders’ 2-1 win against FC Platinum.
Bosso vice-captains Peter Muduhwa and Mbongeni Ndlovu have been the heartbeat of their defence, ably assisted by Andrew Mbeba on the right-side.
Archiford Faira who missed his team’s last two matches – 1-0 win against Hwange and the Sheasham draw – might come back to reclaim the starting place from Godfrey Makaruse.
Playmaker Divine Mhindirira, Darlington Mukuli, Melikhaya Ncube and winger McKinnon Mushore are expected to form the midfield quartet. It’s unclear whether Brito will stick to the misfiring striking partnership of Stanley Ngala and Lynoth Chikuhwa.
Simba Bhora have a number of experienced players who include former national team captain Patson Jaure, seasoned attackers Talent Chawapiwa and Ronald Chitiyo. Ex-Dynamos and Caps United goalkeeper Simba Chinani, Blessing Moyo formerly with DeMbare and FC Platinum, Keith Murera as well as Valentine Musarurwa are some of the players who have played at Barbourfields Stadium expected to stand the heat.
Platinum powered sides, Ngezi Platinum Stars and champions FC Platinum square off at Baobab Stadium this afternoon in what should be a pulsating encounter.
Two points separate the two teams, with Ngezi Platinum Stars carrying an impressive 18-match unbeaten record in the league which stretches to last season.
The Takesure Chiragwi-coached side last registered a defeat on 13 August 2022, losing 1-0 away at Cranborne Bullets. Since then, Ngezi Platinum Stars have won nine games, drawing nine.
This season they have recorded three wins and five draws, taking their points tally to 14, two points ahead of FC Platinum who have registered two defeats in eight games. FC Platinum’s 2023 season defeats were both away, 2-1 against Highlanders and 1-0 to Herentals.
Both teams head into this afternoon’s encounter from draws, Ngezi Platinum Stars sharing spoils with Black Rhinos in a 0-0 draw, while FC Platinum surrendered a 2-0 lead allowing Manica Diamonds to snatch a point as their clash ended 2-2.
The champions have gone for four games without a win, with their last victory being when they edged Bulawayo Chiefs 2-1. They’ve gone on to play three draws against Caps United, Triangle United and Manica Diamonds, losing to Herentals during the process.
Key players to watch
Ngezi Platinum Stars’ hopes will be pinned on 2022 Castle Lager Goalkeeper of the Year Nelson Chadzya, skipper Qadr Amini, central midfielder Marvellous Chikumba, ex-FC Platinum attacking midfielder Nigel Makumbe and Farai Madhananga who also had a stint with FC Platinum. Reigning Soccer Star of the Year Walter Musona is expected to lead FC Platinum’s search for a win.
The champions also have veteran Gift Bello, Lawrence Mhlanga, midfield trio of Brian Banda, Juan Mutudza and Rainsome Pavari.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Matchday 9 Fixtures
Today: Highlanders v Simba Bhora (Barbourfields), Caps United v Hwange (National Sports Stadium), Triangle United v Yadah (Gibbo), Ngezi Platinum Stars v FC Platinum (Baobab)
Tomorrow: ZPC Kariba v Black Rhinos (National Sports Stadium) — @ZililoR