Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
Highlanders 2-3 FC Platinum
WALTER Musona’s strike from the last kick of an entertaining Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday silenced Highlanders as FC Platinum inched six-points closer to the title.
The defeat to FC Platinum means that Highlanders have gone for nine years without a league victory against the platinum miners at Barbourfields Stadium.
The last time Highlanders beat FC Platinum in a league match played in Bulawayo was in October 2013 when they won the encounter 2-1.
While the win saw FC Platinum cement their position on top of the log with 64 points, 10 ahead of second placed Chicken Inn and 11 in front Dynamos in third spot, defeat for Bosso saw them slide down the log to fifth, overtaken by Ngezi Platinum Stars into fourth. Amahlolanyama remained stuck on 45 points while Madamburo are now on 46 points after they clobbered relegation threatened ZPC Kariba 3-0 at home on Saturday.
Musona’s goal in the referee’s optional time, his second for the match, pierced through Highlanders’ hearts, turning Barbourfields Stadium into a sombre atmosphere with about 8 000 fans who had hoped that their team would at least bag a point following a 90th minute headed goal by substitute Washington Navaya.
The FC Platinum winger’s second goal was from a free kick that the visitors won deep into injury time, and the former Young Warriors forward hit the ball with aplomb past the Highlanders wall and a diving Bosso goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda who had a busy afternoon.
It was a deserved victory for the champions who could have wrapped up the tie in the first half when they dominated their hosts, pressing them up and forcing Bosso to make errors in their half.
Musona powered FC Platinum into the lead with a well-taken 25th minute penalty.
FC Platinum’s persistence paid off in the 25th minute when Highlanders defender Mbongeni Ndlovu brought down man-of-the-match Brian Banda in the box and referee Mhaka Magare pointed to the spot. Up stepped Musona, who hit a shot beyond the reach of Sibanda.
Panashe Mutimbanyoka doubled the FC Platinum’s lead in the 47th minute, ghosting in from the blindside to head in a Musona cross from the left.
With a 2-0 lead, it looked as if FC Platinum had already secured their points, but Highlanders fought back, giving the champions a good run for their money in the second half.
The introduction of Highlanders’ top goal scorer Lynoth Chikuhwa at the start of the second half for Ray Lunga lifted the hosts as they forced FC Platinum on a back foot, something that they had failed to do before halftime.
Highlanders pulled one back through Stanly Ngala in the 64th minute when he rose high to head in a perfect Andrew Mbeba delivery from a free kick that had been won by Rahman Kutsanzira, arguably the best player for Bosso in yesterday’s encounter.
Navaya then levelled matters for Bosso in the 90th minute, six minutes after replacing defender Mbongeni Ndlovu. Just like the first goal, FC Platinum’s defenders who had done well in the first half to thwart any danger failed to deal with a Godfrey Makaruse delivery leaving Navaya to head the ball past FC Platinum’s goalie Wallace Magalane who had a quiet afternoon.
But like champions, FC Platinum showed great character when they maintained their composure during the numerous stoppages that were caused by a section of Highlanders fans who threw in missiles. The visitors fought to the final whistle to claim a memorable victory.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza was pleased with the result and downplayed his team wrapping up the title with five matches to spare.
“We’re not yet ready for the title. We still have to keep working. Its work in progress and what we’re thinking about is maintaining our rhythm.
“I think we could have wrapped the game in the first half. Second half they were coming in at us. We were a bit slow to defend our crosses. Overall, I’m happy, it was an entertaining game, one of the best matches this season. Even if we would have played to a draw, I would have been happy with it,” said Mapeza.
Highlanders coach, Baltemar Brito felt the three minutes added at the end of the match were too little. Yesterday’s defeat was the second for the Portuguese national in the 12 league matches he has been in charge of since he replaced Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu in June.
“We didn’t play a small team, but a team that will soon be champions. We gave an entertaining game. It’s hard to accept this result because we feel a draw would have been fair.
“We will do more assessment of our play, and we want to respect referees but after so many stops with people throwing bottles, three minutes isn’t fair. We accept defeat and don’t want any excuses,” he said.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Andrew Mbeba, Godfrey Makaruse, Mbongeni Ndlovu (Washington Navaya, 84th minute), Peter Muduhwa, Nqobizitha Masuku, Darlington Mukuli, Ray Lunga (Lynoth Chikuhwa, 46th minute), Rahman Kutsanzira, Divine Mhindirira, Stanley Ngala
FC Platinum: Wallace Magalane, Blessing Moyo, Kelvin Mangiza, Lawrence Mhlanga, Gift Bello, Brian Banda, Rainsome Pavari, Juan Mutudza (Hagazio Magaya, 75th minute), Walter Musona, Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya (Nomore Chinyerere, 75th minute)