Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
Chicken Inn 2-2 Highlanders
AN 89th-minute Pritchard Mphelele equaliser with his first touch of the game saved Highlanders from the jaws of a Bulawayo derby defeat against Chicken Inn as Bosso fought from 2-0 down to force a draw.
It was Highlanders’ third Premiership game without a victory, having last registered a win when they beat Triangle United 2-0 on September 11 at Barbourfields.
The result means that the two Bulawayo giants shared the spoils twice this season after they drew 1-1 when they met in May at the same venue.
For Chicken Inn, the draw saw their three-match winning streak come to a halt, but they will take consolation in the fact that they stretched their unbeaten run to four games.
The draw against Highlanders also cost Chicken Inn second place on the table, slipping to third following Dynamos’ 1-0 win against Whawha.
Yesterday’s result at Emagumeni also means that top-of-the-table FC Platinum need two points from their remaining four games to clinch their fourth consecutive title.
FC Platinum are on 67 points, followed by Dynamos with 56 points, while Chicken Inn are third with 55 points. Ngezi Platinum Stars who drew 1-1 away at Harare City are fourth with 47 points, while Highlanders are fifth on 46 points.
To keep their fourth-place hopes alive, Highlanders had to dig deep into their bag of tricks, leaving coach Baltemar Brito pleased with their character to bounce back and force a draw.
Unlike last week when they gave FC Platinum too much respect, laying back and allowing the Pure Platinum Play to come at them with the hope of catching them on counters, yesterday Amahlolanyama started the match a better side, enjoying more dominance and camping in their opponents’ half for the better part of the first half.
However, it was Chicken Inn who shot into the lead two minutes from the break, when Malvin Gaki sent Highlanders goalie Ariel Sibanda the wrong way to convert from the penalty spot.
Chicken Inn won a penalty after Bosso’s utility player Godfrey Makaruse handled in the box when he slid in an attempt to stop a Gaki cross from the right.
Chicken Inn doubled their lead in the 62nd minute through a well-struck Munashe Pini goal, who completed a good build-up that found Highlanders players off their mark to silence an appreciative Bosso crowd at Barbourfields Stadium.
To their credit, Highlanders, who were without the suspended pair of central defender Mbongeni Ndlovu and midfielder Darlington Mukuli as well as indisposed anchorman Nqobizitha Masuku, fought back and found their opener through Stanley Ngala who blasted home a loose ball inside the box in a goalmouth melee.
Chicken Inn’s defenders had failed to clear an Andrew Mbeba cross, with one of their players appearing to handle the ball before it fell on the path of Ngala who slotted it home.
The goal inspired Highlanders to throw everything at Chicken Inn in search of an equaliser and in the 78th minute, Chicken Inn goalkeeper Donovan Bernard was lucky to escape without a red card after hitting Highlanders midfielder Divine Mhindirira in an off-the-ball incident.
Four minutes later, Donovan summoned his reflexes to tip the ball over the bar and save an own goal by Vincent Moyo.
Highlanders’ persistence paid off a minute before the end when Mphelele, who had replaced injured Andrew Mbeba, scored with his first touch after ghosting from the blindside to tap in a Crispen Ncube cross.
Bosso went on to survive an injury-time scare when Chicken Inn won a free kick on the edge of the box and Tafadzwa Kutinyu narrowly missed the target.
Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas felt his side dropped two valuable points.
“I don’t want to talk about referees but I feel the first goal was a foul and it triggered Highlanders back into the game. It was an entertaining game and we lost two points because of our failure to defend,” said Antipas.
His counterpart Brito remarked “In our opinion, it was a good game, an entertaining game. It’s not easy to come from two goals down. At least the boys showed they’ve a big heart and believed they could perform. We’re not happy we didn’t win, but at the same time happy that we came from two goals down.”
Chicken Inn: Donovan Bernard, Arthur Chinda, Itai Mabunu, Vincent Moyo, Xolani Ndlovu, Shepherd Mhlanga, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Clive Dzingai, Malvin Gaki, Marlvin Whata, Munashe Pini (Brian Muza, 88th minute)
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Crispen Ncube, Godfrey Makaruse, Andrew Mbeba (Pritchard Mpelele 88th minute), Peter Muduhwa, Mason Mushore, Rahman Kutsanzira (Washington Navaya, 60th minute), Divine Mhindirira, Ray Lunga, Stanley Ngala, Lynoth Chikuhwa
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Match Day 30 results
Tenax 0-2 Black Rhinos, Harare City 1-1 Ngezi Platinum Stars, Bulawayo Chiefs 0-1 Bulawayo City, FC Platinum 1-0 Herentals, Chicken Inn 2-2 Highlanders, Cranborne Bullets 0-1 Caps United, Triangle United 1-0 Yadah, Dynamos 1-0 Whawha
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Article Source: The Chronicle