Highlanders 1-0 Dynamos
(Match abandoned after 92 minutes)
BULAWAYO – The biggest match in Zimbabwean football ended in disgraceful scenes on Sunday as fans ran amok at Barbourfields.
It was the first time bitter rivals Highlanders and Dynamos locked horns in a competitive match in front of a full house since Covid-19 arrived in March 2020.
Dynamos arrived in Bulawayo on top of the Castle Lager Premier League table and to stay there they had to subdue the old enemy in front of the home partisans.
In truth, Dynamos never got going with Highlanders dominant from the first whistle, but without really testing Taimon Mvula.
The two giants appeared to be on course to cancel each other out until the fuse was well and truly lit after 61 minutes when Dynamos forward Bill Antonio saw red for a crunching tackle on Highlanders centre back Andrew Tandi.
An attempt to put Antonio clean through was thwarted by Tandi who put himself between the Dynamos striker and the ball, content to shepherd the ball out of play.
Just then, Antonio had a rush of blood and chopped Tandi to the floor. The defender went down pointing to his ankle as his teammates surrounded Antonio wagging their fingers with more than polite menace.
A melee ensued as players pushed and pulled each other, Highlanders players prosecutorial and Dynamos players pleading Antonio’s innocence. The judge, referee Jimmy Makwanda, struggled to restore calm.
Highlanders fans at the Soweto stand, close to the crime scene, joined the fray and vented their anger at what they had just witnessed by throwing bottles on the pitch. A small knobkerrie also landed on Barboufields’ hallowed lawn.
It would take about 13 minutes for Tandi to be stretchered off, and for the pitch to be cleared of the objects thrown by the home fans.
Makwanda still had a decision to make before play resumed, the little business of what colour the card would be. At the very minimum, it appeared as though Antonio’s lunge deserved a dark yellow – if it existed – and few disagreed when he saw red. The home fans cheered, well appeased.
Now with a numerical advantage, Highlanders upped their dominance of the proceedings but lacked composure in the final third, notably when Lynoth Chikuhwa was put clean through by Godfrey Makaruse but pulled his shot wide after 82 minutes.
Highlanders took a deserved lead two minutes after the regulation 90 when substitute Washington Navaya nodded home following a goalmouth melee.
Dynamos players mobbed the referee, claiming a foul on Shadreck Nyahwa in the commotion. As they did so, Highlanders fans at the Soweto end celebrated by briefly running onto the pitch.
Highlanders marshals, with the help of the police, got the home fans to leave the field. But at the Mpilo end, the Dynamos protests were only just beginning.
Referee Makwanda was still surrounded by every on-field Dynamos player when the visitors’ fans also joined the fray.
Assistant referee Melody Ncube appeared to kick out at a Dynamos fan who approached him. Elsewhere, Dynamos defender Frank Makarati held the referee by his neck.
More Dynamos fans poured onto the pitch. They attempted to uproot the goalposts and when that failed, they cut through the nets. Groundsmen from the City of Bulawayo – owners of Barbourfields – brought on new nets but the Dynamos fans pelted them with bottles, forcing them to abandon the mission.
Highlanders fans – now firmly back in the stands – watched on with pious glee, their own disruptive tendencies paling into something of a kindergarten skirmish against the Dynamos riot.
By now, the players were back in their dressing rooms for their own safety.
The referee re-emerged some 30 minutes after the end of the 90 to inspect the damage to the Mpilo end goal posts. In consultation with match commissioner Edson Nkau, he decided it was not possible to continue.
This was the third Highlanders match to be abandoned in three weeks after their fans caused another stoppage at Mandava Stadium in Masvingo on April 24.
Highlanders were level 1-1 with home side FC Platinum who were awarded an 82nd minute penalty, leading to a pitch invasion.
The Premier Soccer League is yet to deliver its verdict on that match, and now they must also determine the fate of Sunday’s fiasco with both Highlanders and Dynamos expecting fines for failing to control their supporters.
Highlanders: Ariel Sibanda, Andrew Mbeba, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Andrew Tandi (Washington Navaya, 77th minute), Peter Muduhwa, Nqobizitha Masuku, Godfrey Makaruse, Devine Mhindirira, Lynoth Chikuhwa, Stanley Ngala, Rahman Kutsanzira
Dynamos: Taimon Mvula, Emmanuel Jalai, Godknows Murwira, Frank Makarati, Partson Jaure, Sylvester Appiah, Keith Murera, Bill Antonio, King Nadolo (Evans Katema, 57th minute) Alex Orotomol (Emmanuel Paga, 57th minute), Shadreck Nyahwa