Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 3 – 0 Hwange
HIGHLANDERS are back!
THESE were the bold words uttered by head coach Erol Akbay after his side put up a splendid second half performance to dispatch struggling Hwange in a Castle Lager Premier League match played at Barbourfields yesterday.
The Bulawayo giants put up a near flawless performance in the second half to dust themselves up from the midweek loss they suffered at the hands of Black Rhinos.
However, it is still to be seen if the play they exhibited yesterday heralds their resurgence or it was aided by an injury inspired substitution made by the coal-miners on the brink of halftime.
Hwange played the last 22 minutes with 10 men after Collen Muleya got a second booking and left for an early shower in the 68th minute. By then, Highlanders were leading 1-0 courtesy of a 12th minute goal by Brian Banda.
In the build up to Highlanders’ opener, midfielder King Nadolo, who produced a man-of-the match performance, broke loose on the left flank weaving past two Hwange defenders and set a through pass to Godfrey Makaruse.
In turn, Makaruse picked up Banda inside the 18 yard box and the young lad’s shot beat a diving Hwange goalkeeper Taimon Mvula.
The miss of the day fell to Shepherd Gahadzikwa of Hwange who came face-to-face with Highlanders’ goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda after catching the home team’s defence napping but the former took a shot that the goalie easily dealt with.
In the 36th minute, the visitors were forced to make an injury inspired substitution when their attacking midfielder Nomore Chinyerere got off worse in a tussle for position with Bosso right back Bukhosi Ncube. Chinyerere made way for Nkosana Maseko.
Highlanders continued to pile on the pressure in search of a second goal before the break but Makaruse had his effort cleared on the goalline.
Hwange were the last to threaten in the second minute of added time of the first half but Melvin Mekiwa’s shot from the edge of the 18 yard box missed the upright.
In an effort to cushion his lead, Akbay brought in his top marksman Prince Dube for a tired Makaruse at the resumption of the second half.
Thereafter Bosso took the game from their opponents but Dube, Matema and Nadolo were guilty of missing goal scoring opportunities.
The turning point of the game was to be in the 68th minute when Muleya was shown a red after being booked for a second time. Muleya struggled to contain Rahman Kutsanzira for the better part of the play, and earned himself a second yellow card when he pulled the Highlanders midfielder as he was charging towards goal.
Highlanders used their numerical advantage with Nadolo and Kutsanzira engineering most moves from the midfield as Hwange’s midfield which had veteran Andrew Chuma was left chasing shadows.
Nadolo capped a fine afternoon with a 76th minute goal, tapping in a pin-point pass from Dube inside the visitors’ 12 yard box following an impressive exchange of passes between the two in a move initiated by Denzel Khumalo.
Dube scored his sixth goal of the season three minutes later to put the game to bed and this time Kutsanzira provided the assist.
“We needed the three points really hard. As you can see we are in the top eight, this is not good for Highlanders considering what we want this year. So it’s good that we won. I changed the team today because every time when we play a team at the bottom of the log we always experience problem that is why I changed the team. Highlanders is coming back don’t worry,” Akbay said.
Highlanders made several changes to their regular starting 11 which saw Rodreck Mutuma, Tendai Ngulube, Allen Gahadzikwa, Simon Munawa and Benson Dube dropped.
Hwange coach Nation Dube felt the red card affected his game plan.
“I was not happy with the awarding of the red card. We were in form in the first half and the start of the second half. But when we were shown the red card that is when we lost the game. Match officials changed the complexion of the game. In most games we have lost, referees have decided the outcome,” said Dube.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, B Ncube, K Nadolo, G Makaruse (P Dube), T Ndlovu, P Mudhuwa, B Banda (D Khumalo) H Moyo, E Mudzingwa, R Matema (K Tambwe)
Unused Substitutes: C Siamalonga, R Lunga, B Phiri, P Matutu
Hwange: Hwange T Mvula, C Phiri, G Phiri, M Mekiwa, N Chirenyere (N Maseko), A Chuma, A Banda, C Muleya, S Gadzikwa, M Mpofu (O Lunga), M Ncube (G Zulu)
Unused Substitutes: O Moyo, W Munorwa, S Chichero, T Ncube
Black Rhinos 13 8 3 2 16 4 12 27
Ngezi Platinum Stars 14 8 3 3 23 13 10 27
Chicken Inn 13 9 0 4 15 5 10 27
How Mine 13 7 3 3 11 9 2 24
Highlanders 14 7 3 4 16 13 3 24
*Dynamos 12 7 2 3 16 9 7 23
FC Platinum 13 5 8 0 11 5 6 23
ZPC Kariba 14 7 2 5 17 14 3 23
Bulawayo City 14 5 2 7 13 16 -3 17
Shabanie Mine 14 3 6 5 10 12 -2 15
*Chapungu 13 3 6 4 7 10 -3 15
Triangle United 14 3 6 5 11 15 -4 15
Harare City 14 3 5 6 6 7 -1 14
Caps United 8 3 4 1 14 7 7 13
Yadah FC 14 3 4 7 12 19 -7 13
Hwange 13 2 4 7 7 18 -11 10
Bantu Rovers 14 2 2 10 18 34 -16 8
Tsholotsho FC 14 0 5 9 6 19 -13 5