Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE Castle Lager Premiership football title contest has narrowed down to a tense three-horse race which promises exciting twists and turns as log leaders CAPS United seek to fend off a serious challenge from defending champions FC Platinum and Chicken Inn.
The platinum miners face a stern challenge when they host rejuvenated Bulawayo giants Highlanders at Mandava this afternoon, while Chicken Inn host troubled Hwange at Luveve.
Meanwhile, Makepekepe have to cope with the catch-up game when they host relegation-threatened side Yadah at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.
The Green Machine coach Darlington Dodo breathed a huge sigh of relief during the midweek when his team came from behind to beat ZPC Kariba 2-1 at Rufaro.
The victory restored Makepekepe’s two-point advantage at the summit. They had slipped into third position following wins by Chicken Inn and FC Platinum.
“True, it’s going to be tense, but the good thing is that we are taking one game at a time,” Dodo said. “
For example, during the midweek, the focus was on ZPC Kariba and we went out there and got a result, so we are done with that game.
“Now all the focus is on Yadah. You know their circumstances; such teams usually throw in everything just to get a point. But we know what we want to achieve.
“So we will leave no stone unturned. At the same time, I would want to applaud the CAPS United fans for standing by the team.
“They came in numbers against ZPC Kariba and there were some anxious moments, but they kept their faith. We want the spirit to continue.
“The boys are motivated, having grinded such a big result, they are willing to go for it again.
“It’s unfortunate we don’t have so much time to sit down and reflect. But after that good performance against ZPC Kariba, I think we will just take it up from there.”
Striker Newman Sianchali was the hero with a second half brace that practically dumped ZPC Kariba out of the race as they are now nine points behind with four games remaining.
Makepekepe are sitting on 54 points, while Chicken Inn and FC Platinum have 52 apiece.
CAPS United will play bitter rivals Dynamos (home), Ngezi Platinum (away) and FC Platinum (home) in their remaining games.
FC Platinum also have a tricky path with Chapungu (away), Black Rhinos (home) and Makepekepe (away) standing in their way. The last game between CAPS United and FC Platinum could be the key in deciding the fate of this year’s championship.
Chicken Inn have a much “softer” route against Bulawayo Chiefs (away), Herentals (away) and sign off against newboys TelOne at home.
But their coach Joey Antipas, who is expected to join the team for their game against Hwange this afternoon after leading the Warriors against Botswana last night, has chosen to remain focused.
“We just have to be mentally strong now and try to stay calm because now everything is about the mental approach.
“If we have the right mentality, there are good chances we can come out with the victories that we need to turn things around.
“So we just have to stay strong, keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard.
“The games that we are left with are all difficult games, but we just have to hang in there and try and grind as many points as we can because all the three teams are all shaping up and are gunning for the championship. This race will go down to the wire.
“So we have to try and keep ourselves up there,” said Antipas.
FC Platinum v Highlanders (Mandava)
Ngezi Platinum Stars v Chapungu (Baobab)
Chicken Inn v Hwange (Luveve)
TelOne v Triangle United (Ascot)
Herentals v Mushowani Stars (NSS)
Dynamos v Black Rhinos (Rufaro)
Yadah v CAPS United (NSS)
Manica Diamonds v Bulawayo Chiefs (Vengere)
ZPC Kariba v Harare City (Nyamhunga)