HIGHLANDERS . . . . . . . . (0) 1
TSHOLOTSHO . . . . . . . . . (1) 2
HIGHLANDERS coach Erol Akbay has given up on the championship race after watching his side fall to relegation-fighting Tsholotsho FC at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
BY FORTUNE MBELE
Nixon Gama grabbed a brace in either half for Tsholotsho, who beat Highlanders for the first time since joining the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League and with the win, they enhanced their chances of surviving the dreaded chop if Mutare City lose to Dynamos at Rufaro Stadium today.
Highlanders pulled one back through substitute Ralph Matema in the second half, but that was not enough for the Bulawayo giants, with Akbay saying the championship dream had crumbled and they were now eyeing the second spot.
“If CAPS United won, for us it’s over for the championship. Maybe we can now fight for the second place,” said a devastated Akbay.
CAPS United, favourites for the title, with two matches to go, beat Harare City to move to 57 points, while Highlanders dropped to position three, remaining on 53 points, making way for FC Platinum, who beat Chapungu 2-0 at Ascot and are now on 55 points.
Akbay, however, felt Highlanders had played a good game, but were unfortunate not to score goals.
“It was a good match, but if you are not scoring, you cannot win matches and we made stupid mistakes and got punished. I am very disappointed, especially if you look at the number of chances that we missed,” the Dutchman said.
Although Tsholotsho were the better side in midfield, where Zimiseleni Moyo, Bruno Madanhire and Nkosana Siwela frustrated Highlanders, the home side had the upper-hand upfront, missing three golden opportunities inside the first 13 minutes.
And against the run of play, Tsholotsho skipper Nkosilathi Moyo sent in a cross from the right which found unmarked Gama inside the penalty box and the striker made no mistake powering a shot past goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda in the 17th minute.
Highlanders regained their pulse after that goal, but Prince Dube was twice denied by Tsholotsho goalkeeper Nickel Marichi in the 26th and 45th minutes.
Five minutes after the break, Gama was on target again from inside the box after being set-up by Rodrick Mufudza.
Highlanders then made changes, bringing Matema and Godfrey Makaruse, with the latter changing the game in Highlanders’ attack, and his cross in the 69th minute from the left found Prince Dube, who gave way for Matema to curl the ball to the far post past Marichi.
Then came the avalanche of chances for Highlanders which could not be converted by captain Erick Mudzingwa, Allen Gahadzikwa and Simon Munawa.
Tsholotsho assistant coach Farai Tawachera said they had been watching Highlanders’ matches and their opponents had become predictable.
“It was a tough match, but we planned well for it. We have watched Highlanders play and we knew we were going to kill them via the wings. They came at us in the second half and we introduced new manpower. It’s still game on for us. We take the remaining games as they come. What is now important for us is to plan for our next game against Bulawayo City,” Tawachera said.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, B Phiri (R Matema 51’), H Moyo, T Ndlovu, P Muduhwa, E Mudzingwa, R Kutsanzira, S Munawa, P Dube, A Gahadzikwa (B Banda 79’), G Nyoni (G Makaruse 56’)
Tsholotsho: N Marichi, N Siwela, N Moyo, T Nyabinde, G Magariro, Z Moyo, B Madanhire (B Sibanda 76’), R Mufudza, A Ncube (S Dube 87’), N Gama (M Ponyera 62’), M Phiri