The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (0)
FC Platinum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(2) 2
SILAS Songani marked his return to the domestic scene with two goals, the first a marvellous free kick to propel FC Platinum to victory over Highlanders in the Castle Challenge Cup match at Barbourfields Stadium, in an entertaining fixture that was marred by crowd trouble right at the end.
The 30-year-old former Warriors striker, playing his first competitive match for the three times-in-a-row Zimbabwean champions since his return from Denmark struck a stunning free kick from outside the box past goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, then later tucked the ball in after being beautifully put through by the industrious Perfect Chikwende.
FC Platinum, for the third time in a row hoisted the Castle Challenge Cup which came with a cash prize of $400 000 while Highlanders picked up $250 000. It seems the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for some Highlanders fans who invaded the pitch just before the end, threw stones at police officers which led to a lengthy stoppage. Referee Arnold Ncube blew his whistle to end proceedings soon after as police officers had cleared the fans off the field.
Songani, the 2013 Soccer Star of the Year first runner-up when he was with Harare City was delighted to pick up his first medal with FC Platinum.
“I am really excited for my first medal in Zimbabwe. I am looking forward to the 2020 season with FC Platinum,” Songani said.
Highlanders coach, Mark Harrison conceded that his players were outclassed.
After their promising displays in the two friendly matches against Black Rhinos and Chapungu, Harrison feels that his players did not come to the party against FC Platinum.
“I think the game was won and lost in the first half, obviously coming in at half-time two nil down is not a good situation, especially against FC Platinum, we didn’t turn up, the team didn’t turn up today, all the work we’ve done through pre-season so far, the way they (players) were looking, they were looking good, but today they just didn’t show up,’’ Harrison said.
The Briton pointed at the midfield, which he said did not click at all by not being able to retain possession.
“Our midfield didn’t function in any form, that’s where it went wrong, if you can’t keep the ball then you can’t win football matches.”
It was a sweet victory for former Highlanders coach, Pieter Hendrik De Jongh, back at Emagumeni to face Bosso for the first time, with the Dutchman gloating about the attractive football displayed by his team. He declared that he was at FC Platinum to win trophies.
“It was a football show, we played very well, we played very aggressive, high pressure, created a lot of chances, Highlanders totally had no answer. I am at FC Platinum to win titles and cups, this is the first cup, more to come,’’ De Jongh said.
Highlanders were outclassed and while they fought hard in the first half, they were completely off in the second period.
Usually dependable defender Peter Muduhwa in the 20th minute conceded a free kick outside the box when he pushed Chikwende off the ball. Songani struck the ball with such precision, his exquisite strike giving Sibanda no chance at all.
Chikwende made light work of the Highlanders defence in the 36th minute and Songani was left with an easy task of tucking the ball past Sibanda.
The match that was streamed live on social media was watched by fans as far as Italy.
One fan Roberto Ciampa tweeted: “All our country is forced to stay at home (due to coronavirus) but this game made our afternoon happier, Thank you Zimbabwe, from Italy.”
Highlanders: A Sibanda, C Siamalonga, B Banda, M Katsvairo (Lunga 73 mins), N Masuku, A Mbeba, M Dube (Makanda 58 mins), P Muduhwa, M Ndlovu, P Dube, D Mhindirira
FC Platinum: P Mhari, G Mbweti, G Bello, L Mhlanga, T Chikore, K Madzongwe, R Kawondera, S Songani (Chinyerere 90+4 mins), P Chikwende, R Kutsanzira (Khumalo 63 mins), S Ngala (Maguri 77 mins)