Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Sikhum­buzo Moyo

High­landers 2-1 Ngezi Plat­inum Stars A 90th minute penalty kept High­landers’ ti­tle hopes alive as they per­formed an au­da­cious smash-and­grab against a plucky Ngezi Plat­inum Stars in a dull Cas­tle Lager Pre­mier Soc­cer League en­counter at Bar­bour­fields Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

The match could have been the last for Bosso goal­keeper Ariel Sibanda this sea­son af­ter he was pulled out in the 80th minute with a swollen eye.

“I was hit by the ball as I went for a save and the doc­tors said my eye was full of blood, I will know my fate to­mor­row,” said Sibanda, who was re­placed by Njabulo Ny­oni.

Ref­eree Pi­lan Ncube, a teacher at Lu­veve High School in Bu­l­awayo, bravely awarded Bosso the spot kick af­ter de­fender Tal­ent Cham­boko pulled su­per sub Ralph Matema’s shorts as the vet­eran striker at­tempted a div­ing header.

Skip­per Erick Mudz­ingwa buried the re­sul­tant spot kick with a ris­ing shot into the top right cor­ner of the net, send­ing Ngezi Plat­inum keeper Chris Mverechena the wrong way.

The penalty was only taken af­ter a five-minute stop­page as Ngezi Plat­inum play­ers protested the de­ci­sion by the ref­eree. How­ever, tele­vi­sion re­plays proved that Ncube was spot on, as Cham­boko could be seen clearly pulling the vet­eran striker’s shorts as he went for a cross that was punched away by Mverechena.

“I am hugely dis­ap­pointed by the de­ci­sion of the ref­eree. We surely did not de­serve to lose in this way. That was not a penalty at all, there was no con­tact. Look, High­landers are a great side, they are in the cham­pi­onship race and no one must as­sist them win games; they can do it with­out any as­sis­tance,” said Ngezi Plat­inum coach Ton­der­ayi Ndi­raya af­ter the match.

The vis­i­tors had surged ahead in the 66th minute af­ter Bosso failed to clear a Ta­tenda Mchisa cor­ner kick that nes­tled into the left side of the net.

Ngezi Plat­inum al­most drew first blood as early as the fourth minute, but alert de­fender Tendai Ndlovu cleared a James Ngu­luve ef­fort off the line af­ter keeper Sibanda had been beaten by the bounce of the ball out­side his box.

The speedy Ngu­luve, who was a men­ace un­til his sub­sti­tu­tion, headed the ball over the drawn out Sibanda and quickly shot at goal be­fore tear­ing away to cel­e­brate, but Ndlovu was on hand to clear off the line.

Af­ter that, the fans were treated to some bor­ing foot­ball with no goal­mouth ac­tion. In the 26th minute, Tendai Ngu­lube mis­cued a Prince Dube pass with Mverechena at his mercy, and six min­utes later, Allen Ga­hadzikwa headed wide from a good cross by Rah­man Kut­sanzira.

Bosso were find­ing it hard to pen­e­trate the wa­ter tight vis­i­tors’ de­fence, which was well mar­shalled by Part­son Jaure.

The first half ended with High­landers regis­ter­ing no shot on tar­get. In the sec­ond minute of the sec­ond half, Sibanda made a bril­liant save when he went air­borne to tip over a lob by Cham­boko.

High­landers made their first sub­sti­tu­tion in the 65th minute, pulling out young­ster Nh­lanhla Ndlovu for Matema. Two min­utes af­ter that, Kut­sanzira reg­is­tered Bosso’s first shot on tar­get, forc­ing an ex­cel­lent save from Mverechena, who ac­ro­bat­i­cally tipped it over, with some fans al­ready cel­e­brat­ing.

The goal did come in the 74th minute and what a gem it was.

Si­mon Mu­nawa started the move from the mid­dle of the park by re­leas­ing sub­sti­tute Gabriel Ny­oni on the far right. The speedy Ny­oni beat one man and got into the box un­der the chal­lenge of Cham­boko, who did not com­mit him­self as he feared a penalty.

Mu­nawa made a run and was spot­ted by Ny­oni just out­side the box. Mu­nawa let loose a ris­ing shot that Mverechena never saw and Bosso were back on level terms.

By that time, Bosso had adopted a 3-4-3 for­ma­tion in a bid to open up the com­pact Ngezi Plat­inum de­fence.

“We read their move and quickly ad­justed our sys­tem too by hav­ing two hold­ing mid­field­ers,” said Ndi­raya.

The vis­i­tors seemed con­tent with a point, as they de­ployed more men at the back. High­landers made one last surge to­wards goal at the death which re­sulted in the in­ci­dent that saw Cham­boko pulling Matema’s shorts and ref­eree Ncube point­ing to the spot with­out any hes­i­ta­tion.

Mudz­ingwa sent Mverechena the wrong way and Bar­bour­fields Sta­dium erupted into song and dance, as the Bosso faith­fuls con­tinue to be­lieve that some­thing good is go­ing to hap­pen to them this sea­son.

“We con­ceded a stupid goal from a cor­ner which we should have avoided. I am happy with the win re­gard­less of how we got it,” said a happy Bosso coach Erol Ak­bay. — @skhu­moyo2000

Ngezi Plat­inum’s goal minder Chris Mverechena sent the wrong way by High­landers cap­tain Erick Mudz­ingwa from the spot. (Pic­ture by Obey Sibanda)

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