Ngezi Platinum Stars . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
Highlanders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
GIANTS Highlanders brought down the curtain on the first half of the season with a massive win over Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab yesterday to open a seven-point lead at the top of the Castle Lager Premiership race.
Bosso forward Lynoth Chikuhwa scored a brilliant left footer in the 69th minute to ensure the Baltemar Brito’s men grabbed a sixth straight win, and crucially end the first half of the campaign unbeaten.
The Bulawayo giants lived up to their billing as one of the top favourites this season, much to the delight of their Portuguese gaffer.
With 37 points in the bag, they can afford a breathing space going into the reverse games. Ngezi Platinum Stars had wanted to reduce the gap between them but after missing a couple of chances and then finishing with 10 men following the expulsion of Leslie Kashitigu for a second yellow card, they remained second with 30 points.
Brito, however, said he would want his team to remain focused as Bosso look to end a prolonged title drought stretching back to 2006.
“From the beginning we have been saying the same. No one put us among the top teams. So our responsibility is the same because when we came here we demanded (performance) from the boys.
“It’s not because we are now on top that we can demand differently; even if we were 11th on the log. We are here to work, to try to go up there, to put pressure in the training sessions for them to develop as players and as a team.”
Bosso turned up for the game yesterday with so much intent. Although Ngezi Platinum Stars had the bulk of the chances in the first half, the Bosso defence justified why they have conceded the least goals this season with some superb organisation at the back.
Goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda marshalled his defence well to keep a 13th clean sheet.
Ngezi Platinum had a first real chance when Tinotenda Murasiranwa burst through the middle and only to shoot over the bar even though he had an option to pass the ball to Takunda Benhura who was better positioned.
Bosso on the other end were left ruing a missed opportunity when Elsharmar Farasi failed to do justice to a through ball by Mckinnon Mushore after 21 minutes.
Then defender Mbongeni Ndlovu’s header went just wide after 34 minutes before Mushore sent his effort wide of the upright after goalkeeper Nelson Chadya had made a mistake with a clearance.
Ngezi’s Marvelous Mukumba burst into the box with about five minutes before the breather but the Bosso defence was alert as Brighton Manhire cleared the ball on the line in a crowded box.
Later in the second half, Chikuhwa had the presence of mind when he converted with a curling shot that drifted away from goalkeeper Chadya following a clever dummy by second half substitute Stanley Ngala.
“We are happy because of the boys and that our fans are happy too,” said Brito.
“We know it’s a long way ahead but we can’t lose focus. Ngezi Platinum had an amazing first half. Our players tried to avoid mistakes, they tried to play to safety, they tried to avoid conceding a goal and also understanding that a game is 90 minutes.
“So in the second half we put in fresh legs and our plan was the same. We didn’t change anything but the boys started to gain more confidence as the Ngezi Platinum players were beginning to get tired. All these elements came to play and we won the game,” said Brito.
The second half started at a frenetic pace and Ngezi Platinum captain Qadr Amini crashed a freekick against the woodwork soon after he was introduced.
Ngezi Platinum Stars were punished when Tapiwa Mandinyenya failed to beat veteran goalkeeper Sibanda in a one-on-one situation.
Bosso got their goal soon after. Ngezi Platinum’s woes were compounded as they found themselves down to 10 men after Kashitugu was sent for an early shower after getting a second yellow from referee Brighton Chimene.
Their coach Takesure Chiragwi was disappointed by the missed opportunities.
“We missed a glorious chance there, a one-versus-one, and after that the result was on the opposite side, in the very same seconds in terms of transition.
“But we played well. Unfortunately, like I always say, you can only win games if you score goals. We created so many chances that I thought maybe would carry the day for us. But it couldn’t happen so we take it from there. We also need to congratulate Highlanders. They are a well-disciplined team, very organised and I am happy with how we managed to counter their strengths,” said Chiragwi.
Ngezi Platinum Stars: N. Chadya, G. Madhake, K. Chigwida, P. Moyo, E. Madhanaga, M. Mukumba (M. Gaki, 83rd min), L. Kashitigu, W. Vuwa (Q. Amini, 53rd min), V. Kadonzvo (D. Murimba, 65th min), T. Murasiranwa (T. Mandinyenya, 65th minute), T. Benhura (C. Mapoka, 83rd min)
Highlanders: A. Sibanda, P. Muduhwa, A. Faira, M. Ndlovu, A. Mbeba, M. Mushore (A. Tandi, 86th min), B. Manhire, E. Farasi (S. Ngala, 46th min), M. Ncube, L. Chikuhwa (Mason Mushore, 84th mi-nute), R. Lunga (W. Navaya, 46th min)