Ricky Zililo in BULAWAYO
Highlanders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
Ngezi Platinum Stars . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
ABOUT 1 500 fans yesterday paid their way into Barbourfields to watch this Castle Lager Premier Soccer League clash between Highlanders and Ngezi Platinum Stars.
It’s probably the biggest crowd to watch a domestic league match since supporters were allowed back into the stadia.
More fans could have gone in, had there been more gates open, as a large number only went through the turnstiles, at least 20 minutes, after the match had started.
Two gates were opened at the Soweto End, one at the Empakweni side and two at the Grandstands.
Fans arrived late at the stadium and registration to gain entry was very slow, as only one person per gate, manned the registration desk.
That one person checked and recorded every fan’s name, identity number, Covid-19 vaccination card number and contact details.
The process was frustrating and impatient fans pushed and shoved each other, trying to gain access.
As some fans were still trying to gain entry, Highlanders kicked off at an electrifying pace, dominating possession and camping in Ngezi’s half, in the opening 10 minutes.
Despite putting Ngezi on the back foot, Bosso’s dominance of possession, came to naught. Coach, Mandla Mpofu, was forced to replace anchorman, Nqobizitha Masuku, who reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, with veteran Winston Mhango, at the 11th hour.
Mhango was part of the bloated midfield with Joel Ngodzo, Adrian Silla, Divine Mhindirira and Bukhosi Sibanda, and they suffocated Ngezi’s build-ups.
Ngodzo dictated the pace and was involved in every Highlanders’ attacks, with his showboating ejecting Bosso fans, from their seats.
The hosts fluffed two glorious first-half chances that came their way.
Silla found himself face-to-face with Ngezi goalie Nelson Chadya, in the sixth minute, but he shot wide.
In the 28th minute, Silla laid a pass to Sibanda, inside the box, but the latter went for power and shot wide, with Chadya at his mercy.
Bosso goalkeeper, Ariel Sibanda, then produced a top-drawer acrobatic save, to deny Nyasha Chintuli, in the 18th minute.
He was again called into action, in the 52nd minute, blocking a Bruno Mtigo effort, for a corner.
Mpofu felt luck was not with his side.
“We want to make Barbourfields a fortress. It wasn’t easy playing Ngezi because they want to win the championship,’’ said the coach.
“Silla should have done better, and Bukhosi, too, in the first-half.
“Opportunities win games, we created opportunities, meaning we planned well for this game.
“I know our family wants to win, today they came and cheered us on, and we hope that they continue to do so.
“There are 32 games left, we’ll get better. Ngezi didn’t have an opportunity to look at Ariel. The two chances we missed could have won us the game, but I guess luck wasn’t on our side.’’
Ngezi coach, Rodwell Dhlakama, said it was a priceless point.
“First and foremost, I’m one coach who respects big teams, and getting a draw away from home against a big club like Highlanders, gives us character.
Highlanders: A. Sibanda, C. Ncube, M. Ndlovu, A. Tandi, P. Muduhwa, W. Mhango, D. Mhindirira (T. Banda, 75th min), A. Silla, W. Navaya, J. Ngodzo, B. Sibanda
Ngezi Platinum Stars: N. Chadya, K. Chigwida, Q. Amini, P. Moyo, K. Murera (A. Kaseke, 25th min), D. Chafa, M. Mukumba (M. Mushonga, 85th min), A. Chivandire (V. Kadonzvo, 70th min), B. Mtigo, N. Chintuli, D. Mukamba (N. Makumbe, 70th min)