Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Bulawayo
Highlanders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 2
Chicken Inn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 3
HIGHLANDERS coach Bongani Mafu came short at accusing his players of sabotaging him in the 2-3 loss to Premiership championship favourites Chicken Inn at Barbourfields yesterday after he described his side’s loss as a shocker. Mafu said they conceded three soft goals, a thinly veiled attack on his last man in defence.
Crest fallen Highlanders, who had strange bedfellows after Dynamos fans rallied behind them, fell to a 24th minute goal by Bhekimpilo Ncube and a brace by slippery Michelle Katsvairo in the 51st and 91st minutes respectively. “We gave away three soft goals. Its not possible to concede such goals, it’s a shocker,” said Mafu in his post-match interview.
The match kicked off on a low note with both teams failing to string clear cut passes after applying a similar diamond system of play. Joe Antipas’ side however, had a slight edge over their once mighty and intimidating opponents, who slipped from eighth on the log table to 10th following wins by Chapungu and Hwange respectively.
It was through one of their attacks that the opening goal came. Brian Mbiriri delivered a cross that the Highlanders defence failed to clear, allowing the gangly Ncube to ghost in from the blind side and slot the ball in. One could hear a needle fall after the goal as the entire stadium was silenced. Amahlolanyama, however, took just two minutes to respond to Chicken Inn’s goal with a King Nadolo 26th minute beauty.
Nadolo received a neat pass from skipper Obadiah Tarumbwa, got inside the box and let loose a riffling shot that hit the roof of the nets with Elvis Chipezeze, Chicken Inn goalkeeper diving in vain. It was Nadolo’s first goal for Highlanders in open play and he celebrated with a somersault.
After the equaliser by Nadolo, the match again went into a lull until referee Nduna Nkosana, who nearly gave Bosso a lifeline in the 73rd minute when he allowed a Bruce Kangwa goal to stand besides the left footer clearly going with an open foot as he made his challenge, blew for half-time.
The second half was a bit lively and as early as the 48th minute, Tarumbwa, who has been in fine form since Mafu criticised him in the 1-1 draw against Dynamos, shrugged off a lame challenge from Lawrence Mhlanga, turned around and shot at goal but Chipezeze was on high alert. Two minutes later, the GameCocks had their penalty appeal rightfully turned away by referee Nkosana after 2006 Soccer Star of the Year Clemence Matawu fell down under challenge from a Highlanders defender inside the box.
Chicken Inn deservedly went ahead in the 51st minute through Katsvairo after finding himself unmarked just outside the 18 yard box. The former FC Platinum player had all the time to pick his shot that beat a diving Ariel Sibanda, making his first start in two months. There was nothing that Sibanda could have done as the goal was just a beauty.
In the 55th minute, Edmore Chirambadare cursed himself after skying his effort following a nice one two pass with George Majika who had come in for Tafadzwa Kutinyu.
Bosso were back on level terms, albeit in a controversial way after Kangwa took advantage of an alert Chicken Inn defender to slot the ball. Kangwa however, went to the challenge with his studs fully open but referee Nkosana allowed the goal to stand, despite protests from the Chicken Inn bench.
With the match seemingly headed for stalemate, Katsvairo grabbed his brace although Ariel must shoulder some blame for the goal.