A combination of tough decisions against Highlanders and some missed chances are the biggest highlight of the Castle Larger Premier Soccer League (PSL) match between the Bulawayo giants and CAPS United played at National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday.
The hosts CAPS United, who benefited from referee Brighton Chimene and his assistants’ controversial decisions emerged 2-1 victors of the fixture that has been re-branded the ‘NetOne affair’ due to the fact that both sides are sponsored by a giant mobile communications company NetOne.
However, a very calm and well collected Highlanders technical manager Mandla Mpofu refused to dwell much on the dubious match officiating, insisting that coaches can only control the performance, not the result of the game.
The Highlanders technical bench made some positive second half technical changes that saw the Green Machine being restricted to their own half for the entire 45 minutes.
Mpofu and his technical team pulled out defensive midfielder Adrian Silla, who had a bad first half, failing to stamp his authority, and Mbekezeli Sibanda, and brought in Tinashe Makanda and MacClive Phiri.
The substitution saw Peter Muduhwa being moved forward to a defensive midfielder’s role while Mbeba who started as a right back partnered Tendai Ndlovu at the back, allowing Phiri to play his right back position.
It paid significantly as the team started dominating CAPS United, whose players resorted to time wasting tactics.
“The only thing that you can control as coaches is the performance not results. Well done to CAPS, they managed to get three points, but again, I am not sure, maybe denied goal? Maybe it was in, maybe it was out I am not sure, but if it was in football is about lucky we were just unlucky,” he said.
“Penalty denied again? match officials know better. We don’t want to be cry babies as coaches where everyday we are talking about match officials, they are human beings they make mistakes, but we can’t have a situation (whereby) two, three days ago (Erol) Akbay was crying on the same, about match officials, but overall its back to the drawing board, to think about how best we can win the next game,” Mpofu added.
Highlanders started the match on a high note, playing purposeful, positive and attacking brand of football with Ray Lunga, Prince Dube and Devine Mhindirira giving the CAPS United defense marshaled by veteran defender Method Mwanjale all sort of problems.
However, the real chance of the day fell to the hosts inside the opening five minutes where veteran forward Dominic Chungwa who made a brilliant run from the right was released by Joel Ngodzo only to watch his effort being punched back to play by the goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda.
Highlanders made a quick response to the raid with Dube initiating an attack from the left wing, before Lunga made an intelligent run into the box to receive Dube’s brilliant delivery which he calmly slotted into the back of the net eight minutes into the game.
Lunga and Dube continued raiding the static CAPS United defense, creating some glorious chances which they could’t finish off.
The biggest one came 20 minutes into the game when Dube beat an offside trap and ran into the CAPS United box but failed to beat the goalkeeper on a one-on-one situation.
The hosts then scored a contested equaliser seven minutes later through Kelvin Ndebele who seemed to have squeezed in a rebound from an offside position after Justice Jangano’s powerful header had been punched back into play by Sibanda.
Six minutes later Clive Rupiya produced a moment of brilliance as he curled in a brilliant ball into the side net beating Sibanda all systems out.
It is however, the second half that was full of drama, and perhaps the moments that some footballer lovers can use to sustain the argument that our match officiating needs technological assistance such as goal line technology and Video Assistant Referring (VAR).
After the match Highlanders players left the pitch fuming, after they felt they were robbed in two incidents. The first incident saw the referee waving play on, after the goalkeeper seemed to have hooked the ball that crossed the line back to play before turning down what also looked like a genuine penalty appeal after substitute Bukhosi Sibanda was brought down from behind by the CAPS United defender.
Instead, Bukhosi Sibanda was booked for diving.
Highlanders could have also snatched a late equalizer when Mbongeni Sibanda cleverly chipped the ball over the CAPS United defense, finding an attacking Phiri who controlled the ball, but failed to hit the target as his effort went wide.
The result saw Highlanders succumbing to their first defeat since the former Boss Madinda Ndlovu left the project in June.