Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 0 -1 Bulawayo Chiefs
BULAWAYO Chiefs underlined their tag as “giant killers” by claiming the scalp of 10-man Highlanders in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match played at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
By beating Bosso, Chiefs became the only side to have beaten the present top three teams. They first beat log leaders FC Platinum 2-0 in the early stages of the season and handed Ngezi Platinum Stars their first defeat of the season by pipping them 1-0 last week.
A well struck free kick by Gracious Muleya from the edge of the box in the 33rd minute, found the top left corner of the net to give Chiefs maximum points against Bosso.
The resultant free kick came following a bizarre back pass from Nigel Makumbe, who decided to break his team’s attack in the Chiefs’ half and caught keeper Ariel Sibanda by surprise. Sibanda’s first touch from the high back pass let him down, as the ball fell to a pressing Farau Matare, who shot and the goalie blocked the ball with his hands outside the box.
Referee Mhaka Magare flashed a red card to send him for an early shower. The Highlanders goalkeeper will miss the next league game against FC Platinum in Zvishavane this coming weekend.
Before his expulsion, Sibanda had made a stunning double save in the 26th minute; first denying Perfect Chikwende and recovering quickly to block Matare’s attempt on the rebound.
Besides Chiefs’ goal and Sibanda’s sending off, the first half had little goalmouth action.
Highlanders returned from the break fired up and resorted to attacking through use of the long ball, forcing Chiefs onto the back foot.
The numerical advantage for Chiefs was hardly felt by Highlanders as they brought out defender Vincent Moyo for defensive midfielder Ben Musaka to add numbers to the midfield, leaving a back three of Peter Muduhwa, McClive Phiri and Charlton Siamalonga.
Sensing danger, Chiefs, who were taking instructions from Thulani Sibanda who was barking instructions from the touchline for the entire 90 minutes while “head coach” Garthly Chipuka sat on the bench, pulled out attacking midfielder Lucky Ndlela for central midfielder Brighton Manhire in the 57th minute to stabilise the midfield.
Phiri was busy sending in crosses from the right, but Highlanders’ forwards Gabriel Nyoni and Newman Sianchali failed to punish the visitors, who should be commended for absorbing the pressure Bosso piled on them.
The crossbar denied Hamandishe Moyo a goal and Chiefs’ second in the 89th minute after Bosso were caught on the break while searching for the elusive equaliser.
A minute later, an unmarked Sianchali headed weakly into the hands of Chiefs’ keeper Kelvin Nyoni after finding himself unmarked inside the six yard box.
Chipuka was happy with the result.
“Our game plan was to counter a team that plays to possession. Highlanders normally enjoy possession and our plan was to press them everywhere on the field and that’s how we forced them to make a mistake and got the goal that won us maximum points,” said Chipuka.
Highlanders’ coach Madinda Ndlovu said: “We didn’t start very well and didn’t play to our expectations in the first 20-25 minutes. We were a bit wild in our choice of passes and our build-ups were not as accurate as we wanted them to be.
“Then that bizarre kind of situation that happened which gave them the goal and sending off of our goalkeeper, it was going to be difficult to defend. We were more purposeful in the second half with one man short and created many chances. But I think at the end of the day we created many chances when we were a man down, but couldn’t get that goal. I’m happy with the character they showed when they were one man down; there were many positives and I think we dominated the game.”
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, McClive Phiri, Charlton Siamalonga, Vincent Moyo (Ben Musaka, 46th minute), Peter Muduhwa, Adrian Silla, Gabriel Nyoni, Brian Banda, Newman Sianchali, Nigel Makumbe, Godfrey Makaruse (Prosper Matutu, 32nd minute)
Bulawayo Chiefs: Kelvin Nyoni, Malvin Mkolo, Shadreck Nyahwa, Andrew Tandi, Polite Moyo, Takunda Muzuva, Perfect Chikwende, Gracious Muleya, Clement Makamba (Hamandishe Moyo, 70th minute), Lucky Ndlela (Brighton Manhire, 57th minute), Farau Matare (Last Sithole, 90th minute)
Saturday: Nichrut 0-1 Triangle United, Chicken Inn 2-0 Herentals, ZPC Kariba 0-0 Harare City, Caps United 1-0 Bulawayo City, Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-2 FC Platinum
Yesterday: Mutare City Rovers 0-1 Dynamos, Shabanie Mine 2-2 Black Rhinos, Highlanders 0-1 Bulawayo Chiefs, Yadah 3-0 Chapungu