Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 0-1 Bulawayo Chiefs
HIGHLANDERS’ 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions came crashing as they suffered their third home defeat of the season to “giant killers” Bulawayo Chiefs who took a massive step towards surviving Castle Lager Premier Soccer League relegation.
Bosso were the third “giant” to fall to Chiefs in the second half of the season after FC Platinum and Chicken Inn.
Until yesterday, only Harare City and Triangle United had managed to beat Highlanders at home this season.
Chiefs defender Isaac Badu scored the solitary goal that ended Highlanders’ Dutch coach Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh’s 13-match unbeaten run in all competitions in the fifth minute.
Since taking charge of Bosso in September, De Jongh has been in charge of nine league games — winning four and drawing five.
He led Bosso to Chibuku Super Cup glory going for four games without a loss.
Chiefs, however, added Highlanders to their victims’ list and had they been clinical, the “Twitter Boys” could have embarrassed Bosso with a big margin win.
Yesterday’s win took Chiefs’ points tally to 41, three points above relegation. Chiefs now need at least a draw on the last day of the season against Herentals who are on 38 points.
Chiefs coach Thulani Sibanda who has been the mastermind of the team’s survival journey, was full of praise for his charges, adding they wanted the victory more that their opponents.
“I think it was a tough match where we wanted it more than them. We started the game strong but lost it a bit towards the end as anxiety crept in. We had everything to play for while they had nothing to lose and you could tell from the first whistle that they wanted to enjoy the game. For us we couldn’t afford to lose this game so we were trying to manage the game to the end and we did that,” Sibanda said.
Chiefs punished Highlanders for their complacent approach to the game when Badu slotted home from close range after pouncing on a loose ball inside the box.
The Bosso defence was at fault as they failed to deal with a shepherd Mhlanga corner-kick.
The goal seemed to bring life into the Bosso play as they tried to create chances but were thwarted by Chiefs.
Brian Banda found Prince Dube inside the box but the striker’s powerless header was easily saved by Chiefs goalie, David Bizabani in the 15th minute.
In the 17th minute, Banda unleashed a powerful effort from outside the box which drew a perfect save from Bizabani, who put up a man-of-the-match show. A minute later the Chiefs’ goalie did enough to tip a Denzel Khumalo effort over the crossbar for a corner-kick. Peter Muduhwa’s curled effort in the 40th minute was dealt with in similar fashion by Bizabani.
After the break Chiefs got the first real chance but Desire Shumbanete watched his effort crash against the crossbar. That was Chiefs’ best chance of the half as Bosso again dominated play but failed to convert numerous chances that came their way.
Bizabani continued with his fine form in the second half as he made match-defining saves. He did well to deny the Bosso front line that had Dube, Muduhwa and Makanda.
Makanda touched his head in disbelief as he watched his powerful low shot on the stroke of full-time saved by Bizabani.
Highlanders’ coach De Jongh blamed the defeat on days that they lost without training as players reportedly staged sit-ins protesting over Chibuku Super Cup bonuses. “For me it is not surprising that we lost today because we did not train for three or four times. There was no good focus, no discipline and no motivation. l told you earlier that this will be a difficult game. After the Chibuku final we did not train two or three times as the players were on strike. The players were on strike last week so it was always going to be difficult to get motivation and focus. I’m not surprised with this result,” said De Jongh. — @ZililoR.