By Ricky Zililo in Bulawayo
New-look Highlanders got off to a morale-boosting win in the 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League against army side Black Rhinos at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
Goals on either side of the break by Godfrey Makaruse and Gabriel Nyoni earned Highlanders maximum points, while veteran striker Lot Chiunga got the consolation goal for the visitors.
Highlanders got into the groove early into the match and were presented with an opportunity to shoot into the lead in the second minute following a combination of new signings. Striker Newman Sianchali was brought down on the edge of the box by Rhinos keeper Hebert Rusawo and from the resultant free kick McClive Phiri failed to connect a clever pass from attacking midfielder Nigel Makumbe.
The slim-built Makumbe, who had a good game for Highlanders, was unlucky not to find the back of the net when his well struck free kick in the 10th minute was tipped over for corner by Rusawo.
Bosso were to survive a scare seven minutes later when Wellington Taderera stole the ball from Adrian Silla just outside the Highlanders box, but shot wide in a hurry.
Highlanders went on to enjoy superior ball possession, with their right flank manned by the impressive Phiri giving Rhinos problems.
Makaruse gave Highlanders the lead in the 36th minute by heading home a perfect chip from Makumbe from the left following some brilliant footwork by the midfielder.
Highlanders launched a quick counter, with Peter Muduhwa’s long pass finding Nyoni, who quickly released the ball to Makumbe, and the attacking midfielder side-stepped his markers, leaving them for dead at the by-line before chipping the ball to Makaruse at the far post to head into an empty net.
The goal gave Makaruse some confidence, as he had been struggling with his game.
Rhinos struck back two minutes after the break from a set piece. The visitors won a free kick on the right side, just outside the Bosso box and left-back Farai Banda sent in a perfect cross that caught Bosso defenders flat-footed, leaving Chiunga to head the ball past stranded goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda.
It didn’t take long for Highlanders to get their lead back, as Nyoni coolly slotted the ball past Rusawo after being set up by Makumbe. The midfielder showed great technical ability, which impressed the fans, when he brought down a perfect cross from Phiri on the right to lay the ball onto Nyoni’s path to blast home. Rhinos tried to claw back into the game, but found Highlanders hard to crack, with defensive midfielder Silla thwarting most of their attacks, leaving veterans like Masimba Mambare and Malvern Mekiwa frustrated.
Rhinos even tried to attack through the wings, but Highlanders’ wing-backs Honest Moyo and Phiri were equal to the task.
Highlanders … … … … … .(1) 2
Black Rhinos… … … … … .(0) 1