HIGHLANDERS and ZPC Kariba kept their unbeaten record in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) intact after seven rounds of matches with a hard-fought draw at Gwanzura Stadium yesterday. But it was an unwelcome draw for the two teams who surrendered the top position on the log standings.
ZPC Kariba……… (0) 1
Bosso were on top of the log at the start of the weekend fixtures, only separated from their opponents yesterday by a goal difference.
Highlanders looked on course to maintain that position with a well taken goal by defensive midfielder Erick Mudzingwa who headed home at the hour mark. However, the hosts, who continue to surprise many including themselves, were on level terms nine minutes later through an own goal by Innocent Mapuranga.
The result saw the two teams slumping to third and fourth position respectively with 13 points, one behind joint leaders Hwange and Buffaloes.
ZPC Kariba coach Saul Chaminuka whose side has avoided a defeat in his first seven games despite facing all the teams that finished in the top five last term, was impressed.
“I am more than happy with the team’s performance this far. Team spirit has been key. Problems or no problems, we remain united. We are working for one another.”
Highlanders assistant coach Mark Mathe said: “I am happy with the result although we could have got more goals. We should improve in terms of consistency in winning matches and not in drawing, but it’s a process and we are in the right direction.”
Kelvin Kaindu was back on the bench for Highlanders after completing coaching studies in England. The visitors had Joel Ngodzo in the starting eleven for the first time this season and for the second game in a row, Ariel Sibanda got the nod ahead of Munyaradzi Diya.
For ZPC Kariba, Pride Tafirenyika was not on the starting line-up for the first time this season due to suspension and Tsepo Ranthokoane started as the only change to the team.
It was Highlanders who were the quickest off the blocks, but despite plenty of possession in and outside ZPC Kariba’s box, it was the hosts who created the better chances early on.
Striker Tawanda Nyamandwe spurned two chances inside the opening five minutes. Highlanders’ first real chance arrived after eight minutes, but they could not take it when Welcome Ndiweni headed wide a Ngodzo cross.
ZPC Kariba goalkeeper Tendai Hove was called into action five minutes later when he saved well low down from a powerful Charles Sibanda shot from inside the box, getting a strong enough hand behind the drive after the dreadlocked striker had slipped past defender Ephraim Mwinga.
Nyamandwe’s shot was blocked by a sprawling Ariel Sibanda as the match swung from one end to the other. Moments later, Bosso’s Mudzingwa was forced into a desperate clearance from a Limited Chikafa shot.
It was Highlanders looking livelier as the halftime approached, and ZPC breathed a collective sigh of relief when Kuda Mahachi fired inches wide after another Charles Sibanda shot had fallen kindly for the Warriors midfielder. The two sides went to the break deadlocked.
The momentum Highlanders had built up in the closing stages of the first half was carried over into the opening moments of the second.
Mahachi swung in a good cross that was wasted by Charles Sibanda and when Ndiweni picked up the pieces and put the ball back into the six-yard box, the impressive Dennis Dauda was just able to scramble it away.
The pressure was relentless from Highlanders and it eventually paid off when Mudzingwa was left unmarked in the box and delivered the punch with a firm header. ZPC reacted well to the spell by Highlanders after the goal, chasing for every ball and breaking on counter attacks and they were rewarded. A fierce shot from outside the box by Obey Mwerahari hit the upright and rolled across the goal line, before being directed back into play by the post.
The ball caught the flat-footed Mapuranga by surprise and as the defender tried to hook it out of danger under pressure from Artwell Nyamiwa, it could only hit his sheen and into the back of the net.
ZPC Kariba: T Hove, O Mwerahari, P Muzondo, E Mwinga, D Dauda, T Munyanduri, R Manuvire, L Makura (A Nyamiwa, 55’), T Ranthokoane, L Chikafa, T Nyamandwe (Redhiyoni, 55’)
Highlanders: A Sibanda, S Munawa (F Chindungwe, 62’), B Kangwa, I Mapuranga, D Ndlovu, E Mudzingwa, W Ndiweni (C Dube, 82’), C Sibanda, K Mahachi, J Ngodzo (M Ncube, 53’), O Zibande