By DANIEL NHAKANISO
Black Rhinos….. (1) 1
Highlanders……. (0) 1
GOALKEEPER Ariel Sibanda came to Highlanders’ rescue after pulling off some important saves and converting a second half penalty, which salvaged a point for the Bulawayo giants in their Castle Lager Premier League opener against Black Rhinos at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
After surviving some early scares from the visitors, Black Rhinos led early through Moses Demera’s well taken close range strike in the 33rd minute, but Sibanda’s 68th minute converted penalty ensured a share of the spoils.
Highlanders coach Madinda Ndlovu, whose team’s preseason preparations were plunged into turmoil after a crippling player strike over unpaid salaries said he was satisfied with a point as a defeat would have put his players under pressure from the fans.
“From where we are coming as Highlanders I think it’s really something to be proud of, coming out with a point in this game. We’ve had quite a lot of challenges in the past I think we’ve not really worked out our tactics as a team but coming out and fighting having been a goal down to salvage a point is something we should give credit to the boys for,” Ndlovu said.
“The major focus was to try to not lose this game so that we protect the players from our beloved fans. You know how it is when players behave like that and lose a game. It would have put them under severe pressure from the supporters,” he said.
Black Rhinos coach Hebert Maruwa felt a share of the spoils was a fair result in the end.
“I thought it was a good game from the boys and even Highlanders did well especially in the second half. We know the first games are always difficult especially if you bring in new guys to try new combinations but at the end of the day, a point is good enough for us,” Maruwa said.
Despite their off field problems, Highlanders created the better chances early on with Tinashe Makanda’s close range shot being blocked by Bruce Homora in the seventh minute, before Mbekezeli Sibanda forced Ashley Reyners into making a superb save four minutes later.
Rhinos had to wait until close to the half hour mark to carve their first meaningful chance of the match when Tinashe Sibanda’s curling freekick from the left side was brilliantly saved by a diving Ariel while Gift Saunyama inexplicably directed his header over from close range.
The army side made their period of dominance count after Demera latched on to a loose ball inside the box to finish off a counter attacking move.
Former Highlanders player Masimba Mambare almost doubled the lead five minutes before the break but his rising shost was headed away on the goalline by Mbekezeli.
Ariel also ensured Bosso stayed in the contest five minutes after the restart after diving full stretch to his right to deny Wellington Taderera.
The important save proved crucial as he went on to grab the equaliser for Bosso in the 68th minute.
Highlanders were awarded a penalty after Tafadzwa Jaravani handled the ball inside the box when substitute Zambian striker Peter Nyirenda’s shot came from off the post before hitting his hand.
Black Rhinos: A Rayners, T Jaravani, F Banda, A Tandi, B Homora, W Kapinda (A Gahadzikwa, 80’), G Saunyama, W Taderera, T Sibanda, M Mambare (F Zekumbawira, 77’), M Demera
Highlanders: A Sibanda, M Phiri, B Banda, C Kapupurika (P Dube, 53’), N Masuku, G Makaruse (A Silla, 77’), A Mbeba, P Muduhwa, M Sibanda, D Khumalo (P Nyirenda, 53’), M Sibanda.