Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tough duels for platinums

Views
IT’S a weekend that could confirm the shift in balance of power when the country’s so-called big three – Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United – face off with the emerging giants led by the platinum mining teams, in a battle of the old guard versus the new order.
BY HENRY MHARA
Dynamos host Ngezi Platinum Stars while Caps travel to Mandava Stadium to confront log leaders FC Platinum.
Highlanders are also on the road this weekend, with a long trip to Gibbo to play Triangle.
The traditional giants have been in all sorts of problems this season and are outside the top four after 19 rounds of matches.
Their positions in the top echelons of power have been taken over by the platinum miners and other well-run teams like Triangle and Chicken Inn, who have managed to flex their muscle to take control of the league.
Dynamos, the most successful team in the country, are 10th on the log standings with 22 points, 23 off the pace. Caps are sixth with 31 points, while Highlanders, despite all their troubles in the last few weeks, are the
best-placed team of the three, in fifth position with 32 points.
In essence, they are all effectively out of the title race, barring a modern-day football miracle.
On the other hand, the platinum miners, FC Platinum and Ngezi, are pulling away from the rest in the title race and the only two teams that are looking like threatening their supremacy this season are Triangle and Chicken Inn.
That leaves Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps to play for nothing other than pride in their battles this weekend.
But for the big teams to get the wins, it would take some effort.
It’s the match at Mandava Stadium on Saturday that looks the more fascinating. Norman Mapeza’s FC Platinum have been scintillating this year, playing some beautiful passing football, but for all their brilliance, their battles against the Green Machine have been closely fought.
In the reverse fixture, it ended in a goalless stalemate while Caps got four points last season from this duel, winning 2-1 in Harare before forcing a 1-1 draw at Mandava. The defeat was one of the only two losses that they recorded in their way to the title romp last season.
Then on Sunday, Dynamos host Ngezi on the day’s headline fixture. The Mhondoro Ngezi-based outfit had been one of the standout teams until the last five fixtures when they hit a bad patch that saw them losing four matches in a row, to surrender their top position on the log table.
They recovered last week with a 3-1 win at home to Triangle, but if there is a goof time for Dynamos to take on this team, it is now.
They might have won their last match, but there is no doubt that their confidence is still very much brittle.
Plus the three points on offer, revenge will also be uppermost on the minds of Dynamos who were beaten 1-0 at Baobab earlier this season.
Highlanders’ performance this far has been very frustrating for their supporters. They don’t just know what to expect from their team.
One day they play some eye-catching football and then the next, they are just flat.
Bosso started the season brightly, but then fizzled out as the season entered the halfway stage. Recently, they have been poor. A return of three points from a possible 12 points is an indication of something wrong in their camp. After their scrappy win against Herentals last weekend, to stop the rot, a trip away to fourth-placed Triangle could have come at the wrong time in their recovery attempts.
On recent form, it is difficult to predict how these matches would go, but whatever the outcomes, it is Chicken Inn that could emerge as major beneficiaries.
Match-day 20 fixtures
Saturday: Harare City v Chapungu (Rufaro), Bulawayo Chiefs v Bulawayo City (Luveve), FC Platinum v Caps (Mandava), Black Rhinos v Yadah (National Sports Stadium), Nichrut v Shabanie (Ascot)
Sunday: Dynamos v Ngezi (Rufaro), Herentals v ZPC Kariba (National Sports Stadium), Triangle v Highlanders (Gibbo), Mutare City v Chicken Inn (Vengere)