Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 1-0 Ngezi Platinum
AN ill-advised substitution and a well-timed one turned yesterday’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match in Highlanders’ favour against Ngezi Platinum and propelled them to the top of the league table.
After bravely holding their own against Bosso for more than an hour, Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderayi Ndiraya made a double substitution in the 65th minute; taking out Qadr Amin and Dominic Mukandi for Tichaona Mabvura and Donald Teguru. He then abandoned his compact 3-5-2 formation in favour of a 4-3-3 system, but his world collapsed on him as the two players failed to cope with the formation.
Bosso coach Erol Akbay pulled out his best player on view Allen Gahadzikwa and threw in veteran Ralph Matema three minutes later and the whole puzzle fell into place as they started dictating the pace and it was only a matter of time before the goal came.
A long clearance from the back was well controlled by Matema just a few metres from the centre line and he quickly spotted a running Prince Dube on the far side. Dube forced a corner kick off impressive central back Byron Madzokere. He quickly took the resultant corner kick by passing to impressive skipper Rahman Kutsanzira, who flighted an in-swinger that was met by an off form Simon Munawa, whose header beat Nelson Chadya in goal for the visitors.
“We thought the two guys would give us the punch like they did in our last game, but it was not to be. I am disappointed with the loss naturally and I think we actually conceded a soft goal,” said Ndiraya in his post match interview.
Highlanders were the first to ask questions in the second minute when in form midfielder Gahadzikwa’s first time shot was fisted away by Chadya.
Three minutes later, Ngezi Platinum were awarded a free kick in the Highlanders’ half after Rodrick Mutuma was adjudged to have held back Terence Dzvukamanja, although the lanky forward was clearly shielding the ball.
The visitors were again awarded another surprising free kick just outside the Highlanders’ penalty box by referee Thomas Masaa and again Dzvukamanja was involved, but the resultant kick was blocked by the eight-man wall.
Play then became a see-saw affair, with both sets of players making numerous blind passes, except Gahadzikwa, who always made sure he subtracted a man every time he was in possession.
In the 23rd minute, right-back Benson Phiri, who had a decent game, overlapped from the right, crossed the centre line and released a running Dube who, however, skied his cross with three Bosso players already lurking in the box.
There was little goalmouth action thereafter except for free kicks awarded to Ngezi Platinum. In the 30th minute, Dzvukamanja handled inside the box from a Dube cross, with referee Masaa inches away, but the Gweru-based whistleman looked away.
The second half started in similar fashion to the way the first had ended, with little action in both teams’ final third until the 72nd minute when Highlanders’ defender Peter Muduwa overlapped, but his speculative shot from about 30m went wide.
“Our first half tempo was not good enough and that gave our opponents time to come at us, but I think they actually came for a draw. We are happy with the win and it feels good to be on top of the table. We hope to stay there,” said a happy Akbay.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Rahman Kutsanzira, Simon Munawa, Prince Dube, Tendai Ndlovu, Peter Muduwa, Tendai Ngulube, Honest Moyo, Rodreck Mutuma (King Nadolo 82nd min), Benson Phiri, Allen Gahadzikwa( Ralph Matema 68th min)
Unused Subs: Charlton Siamalonga, Nkosana Ndlovu,Brian Banda, Nhlanhla Ndlovu, Prosper Matutu
Ngezi Platinum: Nelson Chadya, Qadr Amin(Tichaona Mabvura 65th min), Byron Madzokere (Kenneth Bulaji 76th min), Terrence Dzvukamanja, Walter Mukanga, Liberty Chakoroma, Dominic Mukandi(Donald Teguru 65th min), Keith Murera, Tatenda Mchisa, Clive Augusto, Godknows Murwira
Unused Subs: Takabva Mawaya, Davison Tavari, Edgar Tapera, Washington Pakamisa.
Results at a glance
Yesterday: Yadah FC 0-1 Dynamos, Highlanders 1-0 Ngezi Platinum, Hwange 0-1 Chicken Inn, Shabanie Mine 1- 0 Tsholotsho
Saturday: Caps United 4-0 Chapungu, Bulawayo City FC 1- 2 Triangle United
Fixtures today: How Mine v Bantu Rovers (Luveve Stadium), Harare City v ZPC Kariba (NSS), Black Rhinos v FC Platinum (NSS)