Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS coach Kelvin Kaindu feels the Bulawayo giants are inspired to win big things this year as they hope for a positive result against surprise packages Harare City in the semi-finals of the Mbada Diamonds Cup at Mandava this afternoon. Unlike the first two editions when the best they could do was reach the last eight, Bosso have been impressive this year to come within the threshold of a memorable League and Cup double.
It has been long since they won a major tournament and now reaching the semi-finals of the Mbada Diamonds Cup and also laying a strong challenge for the league championship comes with great promise.
Their confidence this season can be understood in that context and Kaindu, who is a strong believer in Divine influence, yesterday sounded upbeat.
Kaindu has been impressed by his side this season and has tipped his charges to do well in the Mbada Diamonds Cup.
“I’m happy we made some improvements this year because we have not managed to reach this stage in the past competitions. By the grace of God we hope to go all the way,” said Kaindu.
Sponsors have increased stakes this year with winners set to pocket US$130 000 while runners up get US$90 000.
Already the four teams in the semi-finals have been assured of US$45 000 for making the last four.
The supporters, who have been used to paying as much as US$5 to watch league games, have also benefited from the slashed gate charges after organisers maintained the US$1 charges for the cheapest ticket from the first round.
Highlanders began their campaign on a positive note when they edged Gishon Ntini’s battling Triangle 3-2 in the first round at Barbourfields.
They then thumped army side Buffaloes 3-0 to set themselves on course to challenge for honours.
Kaindu said he was happy with the health bill in his camp but was a bit worried by injuries to in-form goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya and striker Gabriel Nyoni.
The duo has been included in the squad that travelled to Zvishavane yesterday and could be thrown into the fray if certified fit by the team’s doctors.
Nyoni, who scored a double in the first round clash against Triangle, has been a key member since he re-joined Highlanders during mid-season from a six-month loan stint at Division One side Bulawayo Chiefs.
However, Highlanders have good options upfront in Master Masitara, Milton Ncube and Ozias Zibande.
“We have got almost everyone up and ready for the game except for goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya and Gabriel Nyoni with minor injuries. They are with us here, though,” said Kaindu.
“We are quite aware Harare City are a very good team. They have made some great strides in the last two seasons and we expect an interesting match.”
Highlanders will be seeking to rediscover their winning formula.
The loss to DeMbare and the draw against the Mighty Bulls left their fight for the Premiership title in a difficult position after slipping to third place on the log standings.
The Bulawayo giants still have a good chance of claiming a League and Cup double this season but they will have to contend with the pressure.
“There is always pressure in football. But if you focus on outside things and everything else outside of the pitch chances are you may not be able to achieve what you aim for. Our focus is on this game and everything else comes second,” said Kaindu.
Highlanders midfielder Masimba Mambare said they have put behind their disappointment from last week’s league match when they give away a lead to share the spoils with relegated Motor Action.
Mambare is expected to play a pivotal role this afternoon alongside Peter “Rio” Moyo, Mthulisi Maphosa and Bheki Ncube.
“Maximum concentration is needed here. The attitude has to be positive because there has to be a winner at the end of the day, unlike in league games where you can afford to play for a draw.
“People may think that Harare City are a small team when they compare it with a club like Highlanders but they do not recognise that the players at these so-called small teams are also of good quality.
“Some of them have even played at big clubs and it’s a matter of shifting from one base to the other,” said Mambare.
Harare City goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupangedengu says he has a good feeling about playing at Mandava as the Sunshine Boys aim for their first milestone in the Premiership.
Harare City have good record at Mandava, but so do their opponents Highlanders.
Bosso have played four times at Mandava in the last three years and won twice while the other match was a draw against FC Platinum.
But, unlike Highlanders who lost once at the ground when they went down 2-0 to FC Platinum in 2011, City are yet to test defeat there.
“We have played twice at Mandava against FC Platinum and on both occasions we did well. It has a very good turf and no one can complain about playing there.
“We beat FC Platinum there 1-0 last year and this year we drew 1-1. We just hope to continue with our good fortunes there,” said Nyamupangedengu.
The Sunshine Boys, who could not go past the first round stage last year, have emerged as the surprise packages this year following a strong rebuilding exercise by coach Bigboy Mawiwi.
City beat Monomotapa 1-0 in the first round at Rufaro courtesy of a stunning free-kick by Silas Songani and then booked their place in the last four with a 2-0 win over Hwange.
Nyamupangedengu said City have the capacity to match Highlanders despite losing 2-0 in the first leg of their league clash this season.
“We have a good squad which blends youth and some experienced players. We have some brilliant individual players as well. But we do not talk about individual glory. We are a team and we all know that we play for each other.
“There is nothing to fear about Highlanders. Cup games are all about taking your chances and if we make good use of our opportunities things can just turn out fine at the end of the day.
“Our defence has been solid of late and I don’t think we should be scared of anything,” said Nyamupangedengu.
Despite injuries to players like Witness Nyamutsaka, Crybert Muvuti, Crispen Dickson and James Jam who is not feeling well, City are still looking forward to the match with confidence.
But Mawiwi would want his strikers like Osborne Mukuradare, Martin Vengesai and William Manondo to be more precise in front of goal as City’s conversion rate has been worrying of late.
“We have been talking about consistency. Of course, we are shifting attention to the Cup competition but the philosophy is still the same, which is, playing good football all the time.
“Of course, we have done better than last year but I would prefer talking much about the double after the match against Highlanders.
“We could be near and at the same time we could end the season so far from that dream,” said Mawiwi.