Harare City..(1) 2 Buffaloes.. 1. Harare City upped the stakes for this afternoon’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Barbourfields showdown between Highlanders and Dynamos with a 2-1 victory over Buffaloes at Rufaro yesterday to reclaim top spot.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
In a clinical performance where they asserted their credentials as serious title contenders, City opened a point gap at the top with 48 points to put on chase their closest challengers Highlanders and Dynamos on 47 and 45 points respectively.
Nathan Ziwini and Silas Songani struck in either half for City, while Buffaloes had Jacob Muzokomba on target on the hour mark.
City’s standing will undoubtedly add flavour to the Barbourfields duel where their lead will last for at least 24 hours, regardless of the outcome in Bulawayo.
A Highlanders win will help the Bulawayo giants regain the lead while a draw still puts them back on charge but with a superior goal difference.
Victory for Dynamos again makes the defending champions better than City, again on goal difference.
But what could frighten the traditional giants is City coach Bigboy Mawiwi who for the first time boldly declared his title aspirations.
“Of course we are in the championship race and we are fighting for it. It was just a matter of time before we could declare our interests. But if you look at the way we played, our intentions were clear from the start of the season,” said Mawiwi.
“I do not want to say much about the Highlanders-Dynamos game, but rather concentrate on my team. Whatever result comes out in Bulawayo, I want to focus on the next games.”
City will host Highlanders one game before the league concludes in another match that will certainly determine the champions. Before yesterday’s victory and last weekend’s 1-0 away win at Buffaloes, City’s title charge had been undone by a six-match winless streak in a period they surrendered the lead.
Highlanders’ hopes of assuming a firm lead and ending Dynamos’ two-year league reign are under serious threat from the Glamour Boys, who have not lost a league match to them in seven years.
Their last victory over DeMbare was two seasons ago in the Independence Trophy final, won unconvincingly through a penalty shootout.
Coach Kelvin Kaindu does not want to read much into the grim past results, in his side’s chase of a first Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title since 2006 under Methembe Ndlovu.
“We do not dwell on the past, it is the present and future that matters the most. The players just have to believe in themselves,” Kaindu said.
Inspiring for Kaindu however is that despite Dynamos’ dominance, he has never lost a league match to DeMbare following three 1-1 draws since assuming the reins last season.
Dynamos’ last league visit to Highlanders last year in July ended 1-1 in a farewell match for former striker Takesure Chinyama who signed off with a goal, before Milton Ncube saved Highlanders on an afternoon Mthulisi Maphosa missed a penalty. Kalisto Pasuwa’s daring side has this season already tamed Highlanders 2-1 at Barbourfields, but on a Bob89 Super Cup visit in February before a 4-0 rout in the return leg in Harare to post an emphatic 6-1 aggregate score line that underlined their dominance.
Their steely character against Bosso was once again shown in the league reverse fixture, when a last-gasp Partson Jaure equaliser earned them a fortunate escape.
Having recently watched his side’s dominance of the Mbada Diamonds Cup broken by little How Mine, Pasuwa is not carried away by their fine run over their traditional rivals and is mindful of an upset on their bid for a third straight league title.
“The past does not matter now because this is a new game altogether,” said Pasuwa.
Highlanders will miss suspended Bruce Tshuma.