The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Referee hogs limelight as Herentals win

- Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

Herentals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 2 Cranborne Bullets . . . . . . . . . . (1) 1 REFEREE Victor Phiri took the centre stage for the wrong reasons at the National Sports Stadium yesterday with a series of controvers­ial decisions that included four red cards and a highly-contested penalty against the sinking Cranborne Bullets.

Bullets, who finished with nine men, also had what looked a genuine penalty appeal against hosts Herentals turned down late on.

And Phiri had to flee from the furious Bullets supporters, who felt short-changed, after seeing their team drift closer to relegation.

The frustratio­n on the Bullets players was palpable as veteran forward Blessing Majarira struck twice in the second half, to cancel out a 23rd minute lead by Nyasha Gurende.

Bullets coach Sammy Mavhenyeng­wa was visibly angry after the match and had no kind words for the officials, who he blamed for the loss.

“It was a very disappoint­ing match. By, all standards, this was very poor officiatin­g. I don’t know if I’m allowed to criticise the referee, but I thought the referee were not up to scratch.

“We had a very good first half but the second half it was the referees’ game,” said Mavhenyeng­wa.

Bullets are on the brink of relegation and their fate could be sealed as early as the next game.

They had appeared on course to give themselves a bit of relief when they took the lead in the 23rd minute courtesy of a free kick by Gurende.

But then a number of key decisions were given against them.

Herentals were awarded a controvers­ial penalty when Majarira tumbled inside the box.

This was a soft call from the referee and Bullets players walked out in protest, causing a six-minute stoppage.

Eventually, Majarira stepped up and converted from the spot on the 63rd minute.

But Bullets kept fighting and Herentals keeper Nevermind Antonio tipped over the bar a dipping free kick from Nigel Munezi moments later.

This was before four red cards were shown to the Cranborne Bullets players and official. First to be ejected from the bench was substitute forward Kingsley Mureremba for an altercatio­n with a ball boy midway through the second half and later on a Cranborne Bullets official was sent off for verbal abuse directed to the near side assistant.

Bullets skipper Moreblessi­ng Mushangwe was also given his marching orders late on while goal scorer Gurende was also expelled.

Cranborne Bullets also felt aggrieved after their strong shout for a penalty were turned down in the dying minutes following a crude challenge on Tinotenda Meke inside the box.

Majarira sealed Cranborne Bullets’ fate after the far side assistant’s flag stayed down as Tino Benza found the forward inside the box and the former made no mistake.

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