It is Super Sunday as two of the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) shrewd minds David Mandigora and Joey Antipas trade wits this afternoon at Rufaro when Dynamos and Chicken Inn clash in a top-of-the-table clash while Highlanders host CAPS United at Barbourfields.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Mandigora and Antipas have tasted league glory before and this afternoon’s Rufaro affair would be a testing meeting that could give a strong hint of which side might be strong league title contenders.
Mandigora led Dynamos to league triumph in 2007, to end a 10-year championship drought, while Antipas struck gold, with Motor Action three years later.
The duo has also had stints with the senior national team, with Mandigora assisting Rahman Gumbo in 2012.
Antipas was Norman Mapeza’s understudy five years ago.
With both teams having played six games each, Chicken Inn are already leading the race with 15 points while Dynamos trail by just a point.
Antipas has so far given a fair clue of taking the league title to Bulawayo for the first time in nine years, to end Harare teams’ dominance on the ultimate prize of club football in Zimbabwe.
Within those nine seasons, Mandigora is also responsible for claiming a stake.
Interestingly, it was Antipas who was the last coach to win the league title before the Kalisto Pasuwa four-season ruthless title-hauling craze.
Since Highlanders notched the championship in 2006, capital city clubs Dynamos, Monomotapa, Gunners and Motor Action took turns to lift it. But Antipas has respect for his DeMbare counterpart and is playing down his title intentions.
“We are playing against defending champions so the match would obviously be hard for us,” said Antipas.
“We will give it our best shot and try to enjoy our game. It is going to be a difficult match but we have to be patient for a result. So far, I am quite impressed by my team but I do not want to talk about the league title. As I have said before, it is too early to start talking about that.”
Chicken Inn arrive in Harare without suspended captain Danny Phiri who was red-carded last week against How Mine.
“He is an influential player but we just have to move on and look at other players who can do the job,” said Antipas.
For the hosts’ coach, it is a favourable situation as most of their arsenal is available for selection following the return from injury of Blessing Moyo, Patrick Khumbula, Tatenda Mukuruva and Cliff Sekete.
Dynamos have had a steely defence which has conceded only once, while Chicken Inn has shipped in four goals.
But the Bulawayo side has scored nine goals against Dynamos’ seven.
Meanwhile, Highlanders are looking to build up from last Sunday’s win at Dongo Sawmill when they host CAPS United at Barbourfields today.
The triumph in Rusape was relief for coach Bongani Mafu who had been under fire after a slow start to the season but the scrutiny continues this afternoon.
Now placed at number four, Bosso are well within touching distance of the leading pack.
A slump would however not only complicate their title chase but have psychological bearing in the players’ belief on ending a nine-year championship drought.
Worrisome for Bosso is that their forwards are firing blanks with their three-goal tally in six matches having been scored by defenders Teenage Hadebe and Webster Chingodza as well as midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku.
Expectations were high on Thomas Chideu who showed flashes of brilliance when the season began but the teenage forward appears to have been weighed down by the pressure of being employed as chief striker in his first ever PSL season.
Gabriel Nyoni has been turned into a winger, while Obadiah Tarumbwa showed rust before getting injured.
Returning from injury, Ozias Zibande and Simba Sithole are now Mafu’s hopes in delivering goals.
“We are going to continue from where we left against Dongo but that result has no bearing on how we are going to play this match. This is a new match and we just have to play to win,” said Mafu.
Highlanders face a CAPS United side that is on the verge of collapse due to serious financial constraints.
“I am not interested in their finances. I don’t even know what is happening there,” said Mafu.
But CAPS coach Mark Harrison is worried that their situation could cost them more points.
CAPS have not won their last four games, largely owing to their financial mess.
“I am going to be frank here, we lost focus this week due to our money issues,” said Harrison.
“Our preparations were disturbed by this dire financial situation. It has made life difficult for us, to be honest. But we have a job to do and we will persevere. We are playing against Highlanders who have not conceded many goals, so it is going to be a tough game for us.”
To make matters worse, CAPS arrive in Bulawayo without the injured quartet of Ronald Pfumbidzai, Carlton Munzabwa, Leornard Tsipa and Ashley Rambanapasi.