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TWO-HORSE RACE FOR PSL TITLE

The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race could be headed for a two-team affair, with FC Platinum and Caps United better positioned to win the league. By Ricky Zililo

With consistency becoming the latest catch phrase for most clubs’ coaches, the team that will manage to get positive results week in week out stands a better chance of claiming the 2016 title.

FC Platinum maintained their two-point lead over Caps United when the two played to a 0-0 draw at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday. The top two teams had to thank Triangle United and Border Strikers who produced giant killers’ acts, beating their respective opponents Highlanders and Dynamos by identical 2-1 scorelines.

Highlanders are third on the table with 31 points and their failure to beat Triangle United as they suffered their third consecutive league loss has left them seven points behind leaders FC Platinum. Not only are the Bulawayo giants drifting away from the title race, Highlanders’ ability to be taken as serious championship contenders is now under scrutiny.

Highlanders seem to have cultivated a culture of flattering only to deceive as they run out of steam in the second half of the season.

Bosso reached the halfway mark trailing FC Platinum by two points, but that gap which gave their followers hope that this could be their season has widened to seven points. Judging by the way that they’re playing it could turn out worse.

The Bulawayo giants last won the championship in 2006 and after breaking Dynamos’ 10-year jinx in the first half of the season following their 2-0 win over their perennial rivals, expectations were high that Highlanders will be unstoppable.

But alas, Highlanders are struggling to find replacements for Bruce Kangwa and Knox Mutizwa and ease their scoring woes. Mutizwa left to join Bidvest Wits of South Africa while Kangwa completed a move to Tanzania’s Azam. First to expose Highlanders’ lack of depth were Mutare City who beat them 1-2 at Barbourfields Stadium in a midweek before Triangle did the same to Bosso at Gibbo three days later.

Bosso coach Erol Akbay keeps on talking about his team failing to “play good football” but the statement is slowly losing luster, as Bosso are consistently performing terribly of late. Three days after they were embarrassed by Mutare City Rovers, former champions Dynamos suffered a similar fate going down 1-2 to Border Strikers.

For Strikers, the victory will go a long way in boosting their confidence as they continue their survival fight. Strikers’ coach Never Malunga warned other teams saying;

“We will fight until the last whistle. We are not giving up yet.” Handing Strikers their third win of the season puts pressure on Dynamos who have gone for five matches without a victory, managing four draws and a loss in the process.

Inconsistency could be detrimental in Dynamos’ campaign just as it may be to Highlanders and the two giants need to come up with solutions to rectify their mistakes. Dynamos will be at home to Bulawayo City at the weekend while Bosso will be facing Chicken Inn who were held to a 0-0 by Chapungu. The Gamecocks’ executive reportedly held a “mini-crisis” meeting after their draw against Chapungu, probably worried about erratic results.

While teams like Highlanders and Dynamos are dipping in form, Ngezi Platinum Stars are on a rise and turn out to be the title dark horses after taking their unbeaten run to eight games since coach Tonderai Ndiraya took over.

During his eight games in charge of Ngezi Platinum, Ndiraya has won five matches, drawing three. At the weekend Ngezi Platinum picked a point away at ZPC Kariba where they played to a 0-0 draw. They are now on position six with 26 points, 12 behind leaders FC Platinum.

The gap might look big but if teams above them fail to be consistent performers and Ngezi Platinum maintain their fine form, then they stand an outside chance in the championship race. How Mine were the biggest movers of the weekend, climbing the ladder from position 13 to eight following their narrow 1-0 win over Harare City.

The gold miners’ coach Kelvin Kaindu spoke about his team’s need to maintain the run, saying: “What is important is to build from this victory.” His Harare City counterpart Moses Chunga was disappointed with his team’s poor run.

“This was one of my worst games since I took over. We seem to be struggling with consistency and have to improve on our urgency going forward,” said Chunga.

Results

Saturday: Bulawayo City 0-0 Hwange, ZPC Kariba 0-0 Ngezi Platinum Stars, Chicken Inn 0-0 Chapungu, Caps United 0-0 FC Platinum

Yesterday: Triangle United 2-1 Highlanders, How Mine 1-0 Harare City, Border Strikers 2-1 Dynamos, Mutare City Rovers 3-3 Tsholotsho FC — @ZililoR. The Chronicle

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