Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter—
DYNAMOS’ push for the title has been boosted by the return of their top striker Christian Epoupa Ntouba as they look to take their push for the Castle Lager Premiership title a step up with a date against relegated Bantu Rovers at Barbourfields this afternoon. The Cameroonian was sidelined for the midweek clash against Bulawayo City which the Glamour Boys won 2-0 at the same venue on Wednesday to prop up their campaign ahead of the penultimate round which also sees title rivals FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum clash at Mandava this afternoon. Dynamos coach Lloyd Mutasa said Epoupa has returned when he needed all his players available to widen options ahead of the nervy tense finish to the 2017 marathon.
“This is a critical period for all the teams involved in the title race. You would want all your players available and the return of Epoupa is obviously a big boost. “When you get your top goalscorer back under such circumstances it widens options for the technical team. We all know what he is capable of doing on a good day and I am sure this is a big boost for us,” said Mutasa.
Dynamos are currently sitting second in the championship race with 64 points, two behind log leaders FC Platinum. Mutasa knows DeMbare need nothing short of a win this afternoon to keep their chances alive ahead of the last match next week when they host Chicken Inn. The Harare giants will be praying that FC Platinum do not win against fellow title contestants Ngezi Platinum Stars at Mandava.
Ngezi Platinum are third in the race although tied on 64 points with Dynamos. FC Platinum could wrap up the contest if they win today and Dynamos fail to get maximum points against Bantu Rovers. But in the event of a draw or loss for FC Platinum, Dynamos could find themselves back at the apex because of a superior goal difference. DeMbare will be hoping for a repeat of what happened in the reverse fixture when they beat Bantu Rovers at the National Sports Stadium to climb to the top of the table for the first time after several months.
It’s unfortunate the heroes of that match Denver Mukamba and Lincoln Zvasiya have been frozen out of the Glamour Boys because of disciplinary problems. Midfielder Mukamba scripted the storyline of the first leg win with a sublime finish in the second half after Zvasiya had headed De- Mbare into the lead soon after the interval from the midfielder’s corner kick.
“It’s a bit tricky to try and divide our attention. Of course, both matches are important in deciding the title. What we will probably do is just concentrate on what we know best, which is playing to win. The boys are in great spirits, they are having their feet on the ground. We have been telling them that we are playing a side that has nothing to lose, which means they can play freely without any pressure.
“They could have been relegated, but they are a team that can be stubborn on any given day. They have young and energetic players and a good coach for that matter. It’s only unfortunate they find themselves in this situation. So we will give it a fight, we are bracing for a tough encounter,” said Mutasa.
The Glamour Boys have surprised even their harshest critics by staging a remarkable campaign for honours in a season which many felt would be a mere transition when Mutasa was forced to built a team from scratch. Ridiculed by even some of his fellow coaches, Mutasa didn’t allow all that to deflect his attention and he has shown that he is a good coach by steering his men to within striking range of the league title with just two games to go.
Some analysts have even suggested he should be handed the Coach of the Year award, no matter what happens in this campaign, because of the way he has transformed the fortunes of the country’s biggest football club. Forced to hold trials at the beginning of the season, because financial challenges meant the club could not go onto the market, Mutasa came up with some rookies who have developed along the way.
Maybe, had it not been for the regular distraction from Mukamba and Zvasiya, who was at fault when Shabanie scored a late equaliser for two dropped points at Maglas that could prove crucial, the Glamour Boys could have been favourites for the league title going into this weekend. But, in a Miracle Season which saw the top-flight league embracing the Miracle Boys and fans seeing a Miracle Goal, the Dynamos fans believe something big will happen today and by the end of the battles, they will be top of the table.
All that is needed is for them to win in Bulawayo and hope that FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum draw at Mandava. Even if Norman Mapeza and his men win today and the Glamour Boys win too, the Zvishavane miners will have to clear a tough hurdle against Chapungu at Ascot on the final weekend of the campaign. DeMbare, however, should not expect the points on a silver platter.
Bantu Rovers coach Methembe Ndlovu said although his team is already demoted, they are ready to give Dynamos a good run for their money. “I think I have always said this, in every game that we play we always make it a point that we do our best. This game is no exception. At the same time we know that playing a team like Dynamos in itself brings an extra motivation for the players. Our main concern is to improve from the previous game that we played. The good thing is we have a clean bill of health. The only disappointing news is that one of our players Remington Masuku is suspended,” said Ndlovu.