. . . Tsholotsho FC stun Harare City in major upset
Takudzwa Chitsiga Sports Reporter
Harare City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
Tsholotsho FC . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) (1)
NEWBOYS Tsholotsho made a mockery of the established order in the Castle Lager Premiership with a fairytale start to life with the big boys as they upset Harare City at Rufaro yesterday to trigger shockwaves across the top-flight league.
Coach Lizwe Sweswe and his men took time to adjust to the demands of the Premiership and playing on the artificial surface, but once they had settled, they showed why they were good enough to emerge as the best of their Division One League.
Playing under the cameras of SuperSport, Tsholotsho FC did not wilt under pressure, although they had a nervy start and then found the courage to fight back and throw the punch that floored a City team many had tipped to win this year’s league title.
This was as good as it gets for any promoted team and Tsholotsho FC were full value for the warmth and support they received from many neutrals at the stadium, and scores of Highlanders fans who identified with them, their black and white outfit making them a favourite for Bosso supporters.
Everyone loves an underdog, especially one that knocks out a favourite, and Tsholotsho FC did just that, weathering a storm they knew would come from the word go, finding the stability to regroup and then striking when it mattered most.
If the 2015 Castle Lager Premiership needed a fairytale to get it underway, after weeks in which domestic football has grabbed the wrong headlines because of chaos at ZIFA, Tsholotsho FC provided just that in stunning fashion.
This was a team effort, where everyone was a hero and they celebrated this win as if they had just been crowned league champions.
And who can blame them for that?
They are a team on a very small budget, without a home for the next few months as their stadium is being rebuilt and the first club from a rural setting to play in the Premiership since Independence.
Their opponents, Harare City, went on an ambitious rebuilding exercise, flexing their financial muscle to lure a number of the league’s best players, including goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube and Tendai Samanja (CAPS United), defender Themba Ndlovu (Dynamos) and Nicholas Alifandika and Honey Chimutimunzeve who played for the Green Machine last season.
They also brought in coach Taurai Mangwiro and his assistant, Mkhupali “Mr Cooper” Masuku, into their coaching staff.
But the Sunshine Boys found a stubborn Tsholotsho FC that was ready for the fight and, in the end, it was the visitors who were being fêted like kings after producing a performance, rich in substance, which gave them a victory they probably deserved.
The game started on low note with the home team dictating the pace, which was expected, but they did not find the avenues to really threaten the goal of the visitors and their notable attack was when Martin Vengesayi escaped down the middle and appeared to be brought down by the ‘keeper Mariyon Chang.
Television replays were not conclusive as to whether there was contact and the referee was probably right, under the circumstances, not to give the penalty.
Giant forward Francisco Zekumbawira was then pulled out towards the end of the first half, as the Harare City coaches decided for caution against the injuries that have stalked him, but his replacement, William Manondo, was a huge let down.
Now and again, Talent Chawapihwa found space down the left channel of the Sunshine Boys attack, but now and again, his deliveries were poor, too strong to pick any of his teammates, and the visitors kept surviving.
But towards the end of the first half, Tsholotsho showed that they could be tricky customers when, in one of their rare attacks in that opening period, they opened the hosts’ defence, Ndlovu, for all his experience, being left stranded by the touch and change of pace of Simba Gorogodyo.
That swept the Tsholotsho FC forward into space and, suddenly, he was face-to-face with ‘keeper Dube, but he lacked the composure to just lift the ball over the goal-minder and the chance was lost.
However, what that moment showed was that, when pressed, this Harare City defence could make mistakes and, in one defining move in the second half, they were punished for the only goal of the match that was worth its weight in gold.
Gorogodyo, once again, was the one who found the space, after some lovely work down the left, and this time he had the composure to drill the ball home in the 77th minute from just inside the penalty box.
“I told the boys to believe in themselves and they just did that which saw us getting the result,” said Sweswe.
“The guys have been together for sometime and we played as underdogs, but we managed to punish our opponents when we got the chance.
“We will keep working hard and our next game is against Highlanders and this game has provided us with a mirror on what we have to do in terms of our preparations.”
Mangwiro said it was too early to make any judgments.
“We started well, but we gave our opponents too much space which resulted in them growing in confidence and they eventually won the game.
“It is still early, we are just starting the season and we have a long way to go. There is room for improvement as we did not play badly but the result is not favourable,” Mangwiro said.
Harare City: T. Dube, D. Kutyauripo, A Chivheya, T. Ndlovu, C. Dickson (N. Alifandika 74 mins), T. Samanja, M. Vengesayi, T. Chawapihwa, H. Chimutimunzeve, F. Zekumbawira (W. Manondo).
Tsholotsho: M. Chang, M. Phiri, R. Bota, B. Ncube, N. Ncube, W. Stima (D. Dzvinyai 68th min). O.Ncube, K. Chitiyo, S. Gorogodyo (B. Ncube 90th min), N. Gama, K. Machazane.