AFTER letting chances of winning the Castle Lager Premiership title slip through their fingers, Highlanders have turned their attention to winning the Chibuku Super Cup to atone for their disastrous performance this season.
By Brian Nkiwane
Highlanders meet Harare City in the Chibuku Super Cup semifinal this afternoon.
Just like last year, the Bulawayo giants were pipped by bitter rivals Dynamos to the title on goal difference but went on to give their fans a befitting Christmas present, scooping the Mbada Diamonds Cup by claiming the scalp of city rivals How Mine.
Bosso, who were part of the leading pack for the better part of the season, have slipped to fourth position after three consecutive losses to ZPC Kariba, Harare City and recently CAPS United.
If the bad spell in the Highlanders camp continues, then the Bulawayo giants will not be able to defend the Mbada Diamonds Cup whose criteria for qualifying teams has changed.
Only top four teams will be eligible to compete in the prestigious cup. Any further slip for Bosso will mean either Hwange and FC Platinum, who are a point shy, will sneak into that position and ditch Highlanders out of the cup.
With all these possibilities lingering in their minds, Highlanders will leave no stone unturned in their quest to win the Chibuku Super Cup and appease their hard-to-please fans when they meet rejuvenated Harare City, who beat them with a solitary strike by Francisco Zekumbawire in the capital three weeks ago.
Once again, Highlanders caretaker coach Mark Mathe’s ability to stir the ship will come under scrutiny this afternoon as to whether he is the right man for the job. Mathe assumed the hot seat after Bosso parted ways with head coach Kelvin “KK” Kaindu three weeks ago. Bosso management has since roped in Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu to help the current Highlanders technical team as director of coaching.
In his first match in charge, Mathe failed to beat CAPS United, a team he beat 4-0 in Bulawayo when Kaindu was away in the United Kingdom attending coaching classes. He, however, came under fire for making disasterous changes to the usual Highlanders line-up as his team conceded quick goals in the match before reverting to the usual Kaindu style.
Mathe sidelined Highlanders’ top goalkeepers Ariel Sibanda and Munyaradzi Diya and opted for Njabulo “Popo” Nyoni who is in the habit of conceding silly goals.
In defence, Mathe made changes that saw former skipper Innocent Mapuranga playing as a defensive midfielder with Felix Chindungwe and Eric Mudzingwa partnering in the heart of defence while Dumisani “Fazo” Ndlovu played on the right, a tactical move which backfired.
However, Mathe remained optimistic saying the team will improve.
“We lost to CAPS United, that was one game and we are coming for Harare City, which will be a different game altogether. Cup games come with some monetary incentives, so players are motivated in some way and they have shown positive attitude,” Mathe said.
He added; “We have been busy at training but our health bill is not pleasing at all. Gabriel Nyoni was injured on international duty with the Young Warriors in Swaziland, Joel Ngodzo is out, as well as Njabulo Ncube and Webster Chingodza who is still nursing a broken toe. But I believe we have players who will be able to fit well in their absence.
Mathe defended his move to make changes in the Bosso team that lost to CAPS United.
“I know people will ask why I dropped Ariel and Munya for Njabulo, the guy was in top form at training and we all agreed that he had to be given a chance. Remember all the three are seasoned goalkeepers that commanded first team action at their previous clubs so there is competition.”
Mathe said making Mapuranga a defensive midfielder was a stop gap measure as the big centre half has been having problems with speedy strikers.
“When Madinda Ndlovu acquired Mapuranga, he used to play that position. So we said each time we play in Harare we lose after conceding a silly goal after our defence is outpaced so we wanted Chindungwe to cover up, however it backfired. As for having Ndlovu on the rightback position, I had no option as Webster is still out injured. It was a gamble,” Mathe admitted.
His opposite number Masimba “Member in Charge” Dinyero, despite missing the services of his trusted anchorman James Jam who was suspended after accumulating two yellow cards, believes they will prevail over Bosso again.
“We need to be mentally and physically prepared. We beat Highlanders in the league so there is nothing that will stop us from beating them again. As for injuries, we have a clean bill of health in camp apart from Jam who is suspended. We will miss him yes, but the good thing is we have a big pool of players to choose from and I hope the one selected to replace him will do the duty diligently,” Dinyero said.
It remains to be seen who will prevail this afternoon, so let the game begin.