Dynamos…….. (1) 1
Highlanders…. (0) 1
WITH 83 minutes gone in the pulsating top-of-the-table clash at Rufaro Stadium yesterday, Dynamos were leading Highlanders and as good as celebrating a momentous victory over their nearest rivals.
REPORT BY HENRY MHARA SPORTS REPORTER
However, a howler by goalkeeper George Chigova gifted the visitors an equaliser as the Bulawayo football giants snatched a point in an enthralling and eventfilled football league match at a packed Mbare stadium.
Simba Sithole had put Dynamos in control early in the match with a classy turn-and-shoot effort and the defending champions looked like coasting to victory before Chigova helped in a miscued cross on the near post by left-back Bruce Kangwa.
Save for the lack of goals, it was an incredible end to an incredible match that the hosts dominated and should have buried in the first half, but allowed the visitors to rally back to take control in the second half.
Dynamos remained top of the log with 59 points, two points above their opposition yesterday, with only four games remaining.
Dynamos assistant coach Tonderai Ndiraya said his team deserved to win.
“We created so many chances which we could have put away. We could have won the match, but I’m happy that we are still on top of the table,” said Ndiraya.
Ndiraya came to his goalkeeper’s defence despite conceding what he described as a “silly” goal.
“It was just one awkward goal and we have seen great goalkeepers conceding such silly goals so we will keep supporting him and hope he will be the goalkeeper we want him to be,” added Ndiraya.
Highlanders gaffer Kevin Kaindu looked relieved at the final whistle.
“We started a bit slow because of the formation and I had to change it about three times and the third one worked and we got a goal. I believe there is no team that has been confirmed champions yet. The race is still on because there are still 12 points left to play for. The point we gained was very vital because it leaves the race wide open,” said Kaindu.
The build-up to the big match could not have been that enticing thanks to sponsors of the two teams BancABC who organised pre-match entertainment to create an electric atmosphere — from the music of Suluman Chimbetu and Winky D to the soccer legends from the two sides that took the more than 40 000 supporters down memory lane with some silky skills in the warm-up match.
David “Yogi” Mandigora led the Dynamos legends against a Highlanders legends side that had the iconic Peter Ndlovu in the line-up.
The Dynamos legends won the match 4-2 courtesy of a brace by Ndiraya and other goals from Nkululeko Sibanda and Tichaona Diya while Highlanders legends got their consolation goals through Zenzo Moyo and Ndlovu.
By the time the warm-up match ended, tempers were flaring in the terraces as some sections of hooligans from both sets of supporters pelted each other with missiles before the police intervened to restore order.
It was Highlanders who settled first, but were restricted to just some pot-shots at Chigova in the opening minutes.
The hosts managed to absorb the early pressure and took the lead in the 11th minute.
Sithole, playing his best game since joining Dynamos in the mid-season transfer window, brought down a long ball from Chigova and with his back on goal, he swiftly turned and shot despite the close attention of defender Innocent Mapuranga.
Dynamos created a handful of chances thereafter, but unfortunately they failed to put the game to bed. Denver Mukamba, Sithole, Farai Mupasiri and Devon Chafa all had good chances in the half, but they failed to convert.
Highlanders came from the break a better team, controlling possession, but still it was Dynamos who created the clearest of the chances.
Mupasiri missed a sitter after being set up by Mukamba on the hour mark before Bosso goalie Sibanda used two hands to block Cliff Sekete’s shot.
With the Dynamos players taking turns to miss the chances that came their way, there was always danger that they would regret it.
And regret they did.
Left-back Kangwa galloped forward and crossed the ball and with Chigova clearly not under any pressure and expected to make a routine save, the big goalkeeper made a mess of the cross and spilled it into his nets.
Buoyed by the fortunate goal, Highlanders pressed forward in search of the winner and could have got it, but Lawson Nkomo’s freekick flew over.
Dynamos had the last chance though when Mukamba made his trademark run from deep, drifting inward, but his effort also flew over.