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Highlanders worst start in five seasons

by Staff reporter
09 Nov 2021 at 05:35hrs | Views
HIGHLANDERS' 2-0 defeat to Black Rhinos in their opening match of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League at the National Sports Stadium was their worst start in the championship in five seasons.

Highlanders last lost an opening match of the season in 2015 when they were beaten 2-0 by ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga Stadium. Bosso went on to finish the season in sixth place.

In 2016, Highlanders beat Hwange 3-0 at the Colliery Stadium on the first day of the season and in 2017 they began with a 2-0 win over Bulawayo City.

Bosso beat Rhinos 2-1 on the first day of the 2018 season and drew 1-1 with the army side in Harare in 2019.

This time Rhinos were well prepared, exploiting their weaknesses and choking Bosso, reminding them of the mammoth task ahead in their quest for the league championship.

On the eve of the Rhinos match, Bosso chairman Johnfat Sibanda declared that they are gunning for the league championship, but after the shaky start anchored on a drab performance against a determined Rhinos' side, they have been forced back to the drawing board.

Credit must be given to Rhinos coach Herbert Maruwa, who said he had done his homework on Highlanders and was aware that they struggled defending crosses.

"We knew Highlanders are not good at defending crosses and we capitalised on that," said Maruwa.

Bosso goalkeeper Future Sibanda allowed Edgar Mhungu a free header off a free-kick by Farai Banda in the seventh minute.

Sibanda was equally to blame for Rhinos' second goal scored by Tawanda Macheke in the 52nd minute.

Macheke rose higher than the Bosso defence and planted his header beyond the reach of Sibanda from another set piece by Banda.

Coach Mandla Mpofu and his assistants have a lot of work to do to improve the team's defence.

Besides Bosso's defensive nightmare, their strike force also lacks potency.

They have been struggling to find the back of the net and only managed four goals in eight matches.

Bosso's four goals came in the seven Chibuku Super Cup matches they played up to their elimination in the quarter-finals. They conceded three goals in the process.

From the seven Chibuku Super Cup games, highlanders registered two wins, four draws and one loss.

The victories were identical 1-0 score lines against Bulawayo Chiefs and Bulawayo City in the first-leg of the Chibuku Super Cup.

Chiefs and City studied Bosso well and held them to identical 1-1 score lines in the reverse fixtures.

They went on to lose 1-0 loss to FC Platinum in the quarter-finals and to Rhinos in the PSL, again raising concerns about their strikers.

Questions are already being asked where they get goals from and which kind of formation or tactic they should employ to get goals.

What Mpofu and his assistants need to understand is that football is not about created chancing, but scoring goals.

It's no use gushing over the number of scoring opportunities created when you end up on the losing side.

Fans no longer care whether the team wins ugly, as long as it wins.

Mpofu must quickly find a solution to the Bosso goal drought before fans turn on him.

Free scoring platinum teams, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars fired warning shots by hammering their opponents in ttheir opening PSL matches.

Ngezi took Bulawayo City to the cleaners by clobbering them 5-0, while FC Platinum pummeled a hapless Tenax CS 6-1.

Ngezi and FC Platinum's statistics in the eight matches they have played are frightening.

Ngezi are Highlanders' next opponents in the league on Sunday at Barbourfields Stadium.

The platinum miners have scored a total of 23 goals in eight games, with 18 coming in the Chibuku Super Cup and five in their weekend league match.

These statistics ought to make Highlanders quake in their boots and they could be heading for some punishment if they don't plug the defensive holes that leak silly goals and the strikers remember where the net is.

Defending league champions FC Platinum have also been lethal, banging in 23 goals in all competitions.

The platinum miners are the teams to beat and if Highlanders dream of competing for the title, they must do something and start winning matches.

Mpofu seems to have a formidable team on paper, with strong midfielders and defenders, but lack that spark only a coach can give.

PSL results at a glance

Friday: Harare City 0-1 Herentals

Saturday: FC Platinum 6-1 Tenax, ZPC Kariba 0-0 Caps United, Chicken Inn 1-0 Cranborne Bullets, Black Rhinos 2-0 Highlanders, Ngezi Platinum 5-0 Bulawayo City

Sunday: Dynamos 1-0 Yadah, Bulawayo Chiefs 1-0 Triangle United, Manica Diamonds 4-0 Whawha

Source - The Chronicle