Battle of Zim Part II

10 Sep, 2023 - 00:09 0 Views
Battle of Zim Part II

Langton Nyakwenda

TWICE in the last five seasons, matches between Highlanders and Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium have been abandoned due to crowd trouble.

Tensions are always high whenever these football powerhouses clash in the City of Kings.

The first instalment of this season’s Battle of Zimbabwe — which ended 0-0 at the same venue on May 25 — was watched by a crowd of slightly over 13 000.

More fans are expected when DeMbare and Bosso square up at Emagumeni this afternoon.

As such, police and the league’s administrators are on high alert as the fraternity braces for the biggest football fixture in the land.

Awkwardly, Dynamos are at home against Highlanders in a league match at BF, for the first time in years, following the closure of Harare venues.

And the stakes are also high, given that both giants are in the championship race with 13 games to go before the completion of the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

Five points separate log leaders Highlanders and Dynamos going into today’s encounter.

DeMbare are on 36 points and unbeaten in the last five rounds. The Harare giants could cut the gap between them and their rivals if they achieve what they failed in the last six years.

Dynamos have not beaten Highlanders in the league since May 14, 2017, when they were awarded the game after the match was abandoned due to crowd trouble.

On May 15, 2022, the Battle of Zimbabwe clash was also abandoned due to crowd trouble, before Bosso were awarded the match on a 3-0 score line.

DeMbare coach Genesis Mangombe acknowledges tempers might flare in this game, and he has been working on his players’ mental strength and ability to handle the big occasion.

“This game is going to have a bit of tension in terms of the atmosphere, so we need to control our emotions so that we don’t have any problems,” Mangombe told The Sunday Mail Sport.

One thing is for sure — Highlanders fans will not take another defeat lightly.

Bosso have suffered two consecutive defeats by identical 2-0 score lines against FC Platinum and Chicken Inn, going into this match.

Yet before the defeat against Pure Platinum Play — their first of the season — Bosso had gone for an unbeaten 19-game run.

Bosso have conceded four goals without reply in their last two games, and most of their fans are worried the wheels might be coming off the wagon.

However, their coach Brito has remained steadfast and is confident his charges can bounce back with a bang.

“Those two defeats were very normal because the championship is very competitive, so we are not worried about it just yet,” he told The Sunday Mail Sport.

“In football, if you lose one or two games, it doesn’t necessarily mean everything else is bad. We are moving on.

“We understand that we have players with character, who will give us a good result in the next game (against Dynamos).”

“The match against Dynamos is one big game, that’s why it is called the Battle of Zimbabwe. To us, it is just another game worth three points.

“We will try to give our best to get the three points.”

On the other hand, DeMbare are unbeaten in the last five rounds and arrive in Bulawayo on the back of a 1-0 win against a battling Cranborne Bullets at Nyamhunga in Kariba last weekend. The team’s man of the moment, Emmanuel Jalai, scored his first goal on his 101th appearance for the popular Harare side.

“Of late, Highlanders have been losing,” said Mangombe.

“They have lost two games on the trot and we have been collecting some points, but that doesn’t mean Highlanders are no longer a good side.

“We are going there with a cautious approach, and aim to try match our opponents in all aspects.

“We will try to keep possession, which is our strength, and that’s my philosophy,” said the Dynamos gaffer.

Mangombe has managed two wins and a draw since taking over from Herbert “Jompano” Maruwa, and he feels Dynamos fans are appreciating his efforts.

“The match against Highlanders is a very big game, especially when we are playing away at Barbourfields yet you are the home team.

“I want to appreciate the fans in Bulawayo. We have so many fans there who really appreciate the good job we are doing.

“We now feel at home at BF,” said Mangombe.

DeMbare have not lost a league game at Barbourfields this season.

“This means it’s (Barbourfields) a good venue for us.

“Save for the draws, we are good to go at BF.

“The only difference is we are playing Highlanders, who also use the stadium as their traditional home,” he said.

Talk about the championship race is now common as the league enters the final 13 games.

Highlanders, Ngezi Platinum Stars and Manica Diamonds have been listed among favourites to win the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title.

Dynamos, Chicken Inn and FC Platinum are also included in the championship debate.

However, Mangombe still thinks it is too early to worry about the title race.

“There are so many games to go before the season ends, so it’s still a long way to go. The championship race is very tricky,” he said.

Although DeMbare’s strike force has been their major letdown this season, it seems the technical team has managed to establish a strong midfield trident that features Tanaka Shandirwa, Junior Makunike and Donald Mudadi.

On the other hand, Bosso rely heavily on their defence, which has religiously featured Peter Muduhwa, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Andrew “Tower” Mbeba and Archford Faira.

Brighton Manhire, Mackinnon Mushore and Melikhaya Ncube have also been consistent starters in midfield.

Fixtures

Yadah v Cranborne Bullets (Baobab), Hwange v Simba Bhora (Colliery), Dynamos v Highlanders (Barbourfields)

X: @LangtonGuraz

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