Sikhumbuzo Moyo Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 1-0 Triangle United
HIGHLANDERS’ leading marksman Charles Sibanda scored a priceless goal to hand his side a vital win in a dull Castle Lager Premiership match played at Hartsfield Grounds in Bulawayo yesterday.
Sibanda’s 23rd minute goal atoned for Bosso’s largely lethargic display with the game petering out into a big yawn as the two sides struggled to string together passes on an unfamiliar rugby turf.
With the win, Bosso climbed to second position on the log, a point behind Dynamos.
Highlanders’ players were visibly uncomfortable on the ball and were always second best to their opponents who appeared fitter than them. However, head coach Kelvin Kaindu defended his players’ fitness levels and instead blamed the Hartsfield Grounds pitch as the reason why his boys could not click.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the fitness of the players, the game was just difficult and boring, not that the players got tired,” said Kaindu despite clear signs that most of his players were failing to match Triangle’s fitness levels. This is despite the fact that Highlanders has a full-time fitness trainer Majaha Ndlovu for the first time in the history of the club.
Highlanders were the first to settle and as early as the second minute, unlucky Honest Moyo, playing his first match for Bosso since being deregistered mid-season last year, brought in a beautiful cross from the left that curled into the box with his teammates, Njabulo Ncube, Charles Sibanda, Pasca Manhanga and man of the moment Felix Chindungwe all charging forward to bury it.
It was a tale of misses until the ball fell to Chindungwe whose deep volley went over the bar.
In the fifth minute, the enterprising Moyo, who sadly limped off the pitch with a harmstring injury in the 64th minute, making way for Webster Chingodzo, a second half season buy from Tripple B, brought another inviting cross from his left side territory.
The ball eluded the visitors’ goalkeeper Ronald Mudimu but not Njabulo who skilfully brought it back into play and the ball was met by none other than Chindungwe whose shot hit the crossbar. Mudimu was at sea at that time.
The match, still being controlled by the home side save for a few mazy runs by the visitors’ skipper Blessing Chimwamuchere on the left side, developed into a seasaw affair until the 23rd minute when the country’s leading marksman Sibanda struck.
Sibanda, who took his tally to 11 goals, received a pass from Manhanga inside the 12 yard box and for a moment almost made a fool of himself by taking too long to go for the kill as he seemed to struggle with his control.
Luckily for him, the visitors’ defenders dithered anticipating the referee Thembinkosi Sibanda to blow for offside.
He didn’t and the dreadlocked Sibanda’s leftfooted shot found its way into the nets.
“The goal was a clear offside and we lost due to poor officiating. These referees have been doing that and getting away with it, it was clear that there was a prior plan to do this and even the added time was just too little, I mean a minute in such a match when we had so many injuries,” charged the Triangle gaffer Biggie Zuze after the match.
Ironically, last year when Triangle was under Gishon Ntini, the team complained of too much added time after Bosso posted a similar 1-0 win, following 16 minutes added on.
The visitors could have grabbed an equaliser in the 39th minute after the usually reliable Erick Mudzingwa failed to clear a harmless looking ball that eventually fell on the path of a running Tinei Chitora who found himself face to face with Ariel Sibanda, in goal for Highlanders.
As he got into the box, Chitora let loose a pile driver that Sibanda managed to parry for a corner kick.
Sibanda did well to try and narrow the angle. It was to be the last real chance of the first half for the match.
Triangle came back from the breather the more determined side, launching long balls that bypassed the midfield where Chindungwe, Hillary Madzivanyika, Joel Ngodzo and Manhanga had bullied their opponents.
The change in the type of play saw the central defence of captain Innocent Mapuranga and Dumisani Ndlovu being exposed as on many occasions it was the failure by the visitors to bury the chances than them defending.
Kaindu brought in young Kuda Machazane for the rather wasteful Njabulo while Zuze took out Graham Ncube for Felix Kuswatuka in a bid to bring in fresh legs that would stretch the Bosso defence to the limit.
Charles missed a golden opportunity to grab a brace with his shot inside the box off a through pass from Manhanga, missing the upright by inches.
The match saw both teams ending with 10 men after the visitors’ Jimmy Tigere went for an early shower when he was shown a second yellow card for a lunge on Machazane.
Three minutes later, Manhanga also saw red for a second bookable offence after he failed to observe the 10 yards as Triangle took a free kick just outside the box.
The retake by Nhamo Lameck hit the upright although Ariel would argue he had it covered.
A relieved Kaindu conceded that his boys did not play their usual game but still managed to bag the three points.
“We managed to get a chance and score then hung on. It was a difficult game though,” he said.
His counterpart Zuze said they had a better showing in the second half but were unlucky not to find the target.
“We knew it would be difficult to come here and get maximum points,” he said.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Erick Mudzingwa, Honest Moyo ( Webster Chingodzo 64th min), Innocent Mapuranga, Dumisani Ndlovu, Felix Chindungwe, Joel Ngodzo (Mthulisi Maphosa (60th min), Hillary Madzivanyika, Charles Sibanda, Njabulo Ncube (Kuda Machazane 55th min), Pasca Manhanga
Unused substitutes: Mgcini Sibanda, Knox Mutizwa, Valentine Ndaba, Njabulo Nyoni
Triangle United: Ronald Mudimu, Chimwamuchere (Nhamo Lameck 31st min), Jimmy Tigere, Jimmy Dzingai, Charles Makoto, Cabby Kamhapa (Tichaona Chipunza 75th min), Graham Ncube (Felix Kuswatuka 56th min), Nelson Menson