IF there is one match that the Highlanders family wants to forget, it is the 4-0 drubbing by Harare City on November 16 last year at Rufaro Stadium at the penultimate stage of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) when the championship beckoned at their doorstep.
Then assistant coach Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu was in charge.
On September 20 this year at the same venue, Bosso suffered another blow to the title aspirations with a 0-1 defeat to Harare City.
Since that match, the Bulawayo giants have lost two crucial matches in the league, 1-3 to ZPC Kariba at Hartsfield Rugby Grounds and another 0-4 humiliating defeat by Caps United, effectively ending any hopes of clinching the PSL title which has remained elusive for almost a decade now.
Highlanders are back at Rufaro Stadium once more on Sunday against Harare City – this time, on a different mission.
They will be playing for a ticket to the final of Chibuku Super Cup. But besides looking to get to the finals of this competition, the significance of this match lies elsewhere.
This is a perfect opportunity for Highlanders to redeem themselves after the last few weeks which saw coach Kelvin Kaindu sacrificed, with assistant Mark Mathe given the reins to finish the season.
Highlanders’ chief executive officer Ndumiso Gumede yesterday confirmed that Mathe, though not a favourite of many Bosso fans after last weekend’s battering at the hands of Caps in his first match in charge, would be in charge of the team until the end of the season.
Gumede said Mathe, alongside goalkeepers’ coach Peter Nkomo, had been given a mandate of finishing in the top four, whose reward is participation in the Mbada Diamonds Cup where Bosso are the defending champions.
But the duo’s immediate challenge is obviously the match on Sunday. This is a match which they have to win at all costs.
This is not lost on the Bosso executive who, after realising Mathe’s deficiencies which were exposed by an efficient Caps United at the National Sports Stadium, moved quickly to strengthen the technical department by appointing veteran coach Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu.
Zulu started his duties at the beleaguered Bulawayo giants yesterday.
“We had told them that we wish they could win all the six matches,” Gumede said earlier on Tuesday before announcing Zulu’s appointment.
“But we said they must win four which had a bearing on our qualifying for the Mbada Cup, seeing that the bid for the championship may have failed. We must win a minimum of four of the remaining league matches or at the year-end review there would be gap filling.”
According to the revised Mbada Diamonds Cup format, only top four finishers at the end of the season will participate in the annual tournament.
In his analysis of the Caps massacre, Mathe lamented the long list of injuries in his squad which saw players like Webster Chingodza, Simon Munawa and Njabulo Ncube failing to make the trip to Harare.
In their absence, former skipper Innocent Mapuranga and Felix Chindungwe interchanged the anchorman position throughout the match with very little effect.
It was not clear by yesterday if the three had recovered for the upcoming match. But whether they are available or not, Mathe knows this is a match he cannot afford to lose if he is to win back the supporters’ confidence. Most of the fans have already passed a vote of no confidence after last Sunday’s disaster.
Harare City is the last team that Bosso would have wished to face at this juncture — a team that has decided their league fate in two consecutive seasons.
However, Bosso’s only solace going into the match would be the absence of Harare City midfield strongman James Jam who was suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the tournament.
City are on the rise since coach Masimba Dinyero took over from Bigboy Mawiwi in July.
They too, are looking to bounce back though after a league defeat to FC Platinum, which was Dinyero’s first defeat in Harare. The City Fathers could not have asked for a better opponent than Bosso as they look to recover from that little blip.
Dinyero has only lost two league matches in eight games with five wins and a draw since taking over from Mawiwi.
In another semi-final to be played at Rufaro Stadium on Saturday, FC Platinum take on Black Rhinos. Both matches will be beamed live on SuperSport 9.