Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 1-0 Dynamos
A SECOND-HALF strike by Stanley Ngala in the 55th minute sealed victory for Bosso who lifted the Independence Cup before a capacity crowd at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
Highlanders hung on to the solitary goal in a tension-filled match with bouts of rowdiness by both sets of players and when referee Arnold Ncube blew the final whistle, Bosso fans went into frenzy.
It was a sweet win for Highlanders, who were playing their first major cup final against Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium since 2007 when they lost 2-1 in the CBZ FA Cup.
Having lost last year’s Independence Cup 2-0 to Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium, Bosso soaked early pressure to lift their first silverware since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Dynamos started the game on the offensive, seeking an early goal and forced a corner through boy wonder Bill Antonio in the second minute.
From the resultant corner, veteran midfielder Ralph Kawondera’s glancing header went agonisingly wide.
A minute later, former Highlanders’ striker Tinashe Makanda found himself with acres of space outside the box after being fed by Antonio, but he shot way off target as DeMbare kept on pressing.
Bosso striker Lynoth Chikuhwa should have done better in his side’s first break in the sixth minute, but took too long to decide whether to go for goal or pass to his striking partner Stanley Ngala, giving Dynamos defenders time to recover and dispossess him.
Antonio, who was lively on the right wing for the visitors and looked threatening every time he was in possession, tried a spectacular shot from an acute angle in the 15th minute, bringing the best out of Bosso goalkeeper and skipper Ariel Sibanda.
A minute later, an unmarked Keith Murera blew a golden scoring chance when he got to the end of a rebound off a free-kick won by Antonio on the edge of the box and directed his effort off target.
The near misses by Dynamos, who dominated the first quarter, awakened Highlanders, as they slowly crept into the game with some neat passes.
They knocked the ball around trying to open up DeMbare, with Nqobizitha Masuku, Adrian Silla and Divine Mhindirira trying to outwit Dynamos’ Ralph Kawondera, Murera and Shadreck Nyahwa in central midfield.
Silla won a tussle against Brendon Mpofu on the right corner and delivered an inviting cross that found no takers.
The game had so much tension and in the 29th minute, tempers flared, with Godknows Murwira and Stanley Ngala involved in a scuffle that referee Ncube managed to defuse.
In the 34th minute, Highlanders won a free-kick at the edge of the Dynamos box after keeper Taimon Mvula was adjudged to have fouled Ngala.
This led to a five-minute stoppage as DeMbare’s supporters threw missiles at Bosso keeper Sibanda in protest.
When play resumed, Mvula went airborne to tip Masuku’s attempt out for a corner.
Dynamos launched a quick raid, but Emmanuel Paga found Peter Muduhwa and Andrew Tandi resolute in defence for Bosso.
Three minutes into the second-half, Mvula made a fine save to deny Ngala from close-range after the striker found himself at the end of a Muduhwa header.
Ngala then put Highlanders in the lead when he hit the roof of the net after connecting a Washington Navaya pass in the 55th minute.
Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya reacted by pulling out the ineffective pair of Paga and Makanda, replacing them with central striker Evans Katema and winger Issa Ali.
The introduction of Ali saw him attacking from the right wing while Antonio moved to the left. Ndiraya also pushed Murwira to the right side of midfield to aid his attacking options.
Silla then teed Navaya in the 63rd minute and the striker fluffed while trying to catch Mvula unaware at the near post.
Bosso survived a 73rd minute scare when Antonio left Andrew Mbeba for dead on the left, sent in an inviting cross that Katema failed to connect.
Nyahwa was shown a straight red card in the 87th minute for a dangerous high tackle on Mbongeni Ndlovu, kicking the Bosso defender in the head.
Highlanders failed to utilise numerical advantage, as Dynamos forced two corners in the last minute in what became a nervy finish.
What they said
Tonderai Ndiraya, Dynamos: Football is the winner today. Most importantly, the atmosphere was electrifying and we really enjoyed the match. We wish this could be the case week in, week out. We want people back in the stadium, but most importantly I’m happy that the day has ended with such an electrifying atmosphere. As you saw, people were happy and congratulations to Highlanders. We’re happy 42 years of freedom, I’m happy despite us losing today.
Mandla Mpofu, Highlanders coach: It feels good to win the Independence Cup. This victory is for the multitude of fans who came to celebrate our Independence. As much as it was more of a friendly encounter, as I said during the course of the week, that it doesn’t matter what’s at stake when you play Dynamos, you always want to win. Today I’m happy, a very tough game, a very tactical game.
The most important thing was to make sure the cup stays here. We need to cut our celebrations because in five days’ time we’re playing FC Platinum.
Stanley Ngala, Highlanders goal scorer: I’m over the moon, actually, no amount of words can describe the feeling of scoring such an important goal. What makes it special is that it was a goal that won us the Independence Cup and it came at a time when I haven’t been scoring goals yet I’ve been playing well. I’m also grateful to the fans who were marvellous and as Highlanders I think we deserve this victory.
Ariel Sibanda, Highlanders captain: We had to win this game considering that we are at home and this is the first time the main Independence Cup celebrations are in Bulawayo. It was a must win for us. It was a good game, we were playing a good side and an organised side, a lot of quality from Dynamos.
We tried our best and a good goal from Stanley Ngala. The game plan was simple, we wanted to win. The supporters were unbelievable today and I wish they could come like this to every game that we play.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Andrew Mbeba, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Andrew Tandi, Peter Muduhwa, Nqobizitha Masuku, Rahman Kutsanzira (Washington Navaya, 45th minute), Devine Mhindirira Stanley Ngala, Adrian Silla (Joel Ngodzo, 80th minute), Lynoth Chikuhwa (Darlington Mukuli, 90th minute)
Dynamos: Taimon Mvula, Shadreck Nyahwa, Brendon Mpofu, Patson Jaure, Frank Makarati, Keith Murera, Godknows Murwira (Emmanuel Jalai, 77th minute), Ralph Kawondera, Emmanuel Paga (Evans Katema, 59th minute), Bill Antonio, Tinashe Makanda (Issa Sadiki, 55th minute)