24 March 2009

Zimbabwe: Malajila's Delight

Harare — ZIMBABWE international striker Cuthbert Malajila was yesterday basking in the glory of scoring on his Premiership debut for Dynamos that helped the Harare giants get their campaign, to reclaim the league title, off to a blistering start at Mucheke on Sunday.

Dynamos thumped Underhill 3-0 to sound warning shots of their intentions to get off the blocks early in the race for the championship.

DeMbare also became the biggest winners on an otherwise low scoring opening weekend of the Premiership.

CAPS United's goalless draw against Hwange at Rufaro on Sunday was the only encounter that failed to produce goals.

But there was no doubting that the spotlight in the Dynamos/Underhill match fell on the Harare giants' new acquisitions such as Milton Makopa, George Magariro and Malajila.

Malajila arrived at Dynamos as a direct replacement for fellow Warriors international and DeMbare crowd favourite Edward Sadomba who is now in Mozambique.

His high-profile arrival at DeMbare, after a successful spell at Chapungu and Highlanders, meant there were a lot of expectations on the 2007 Golden Boot winner.

Malajila comes from a football family and his father Ernest Makosa was one of the best midfielders in the '80s.

Now back in the capital -- a city that he calls home -- Malajila did well to impress the Dynamos family when grabbing the Harare giants' opening goal in the 16th minute.

Phillip Marufu and midfielder Carrington Gomba added one each to seal a crucial win on the road for David Mandigora's men.

Dynamos have often struggled on their visits to Mucheke but against Underhill, they had seized control of the game by the time Marufu added to Malajila's goal with a 25th minute strike.

Malajila, who has, however, still not fully recovered from an ankle injury suffered while on duty with the Warriors at the African Nations Championships in Cote d'Ivoire, said his opening goal for Dynamos had helped shake off the pressure that comes with playing for the popular Harare side.

"I am just so excited to score on my debut for Dynamos. It takes a great deal of pressure off me because when you are a striker and you join a club, people always expect you to score goals.

"We have so many strikers at Dynamos and if we can all score it makes it easier for me because the responsibility will be shared," Malajila said.

He also spoke about his delight at reviving his partnership with Marufu who was also his partner in the Chapungu attack.

"Even though I have no problems playing alongside anyone, be it Gilbert Zulu or Lloyd Hlahla, it is good to play with Phillip again because he understands me better, knows my runs and I know his.

"He also knows my strengths and my weaknesses.

"I am also happy that I managed to score away which should help me with my confidence when we play our first home game but I am not yet 100 percent fit. I still feel pain in my ankle especially if I ride into tough tackles or when we play on a hard surface," Malajila said.

Malajila lasted 65 minutes of the game against Underhill before David Shoko replaced him but by the time he came off he had already done the damage on Underhill and helped give Dynamos a perfect start to the season.

Dynamos' game against Underhill, who have lost a number of key players this season, also marked the return to the Harare giants of midfielder Eddie Mashiri who had an unhappy spell at their city rivals CAPS United.

Mashiri had a good game for the club that honed his talents when he was growing up as a teenage hopeful during his schoolboy days.

DeMbare's comprehensive destruction of Underhill sent their fans into delirium and, with a number of the players they fielded having just returned from national duty at the African Nations Championship finals in Cote d'Ivoire, the link with CHAN was inevitable.

"Give us the DRC!" chanted delirious DeMbare fans in a mock suggestion that their team was too strong this season they were good enough to play the Democratic Republic of Congo, which won the CHAN title with a 2-0 win over Ghana.

The Warriors held the DRC to a 1-1 draw at the CHAN group matches.

That Dynamos could come out of an Underhill examination without conceding a goal, when they did not field regular goalkeeper Willard Manyatera and defender Thomas Sweswe, speaks volumes for their strength in depth this season.

But it's still early days yet.

New acquisitions also hogged the limelight at Motor Action Sports Club where striker Tawanda Mareya thrust Eagles into the lead on his debut before former Masvingo United and Highlanders striker Douglas Zimbago headed home the Mighty Bulls equaliser for a 1-1 draw.

Former Eastern Lions midfielder Nesbert Zvekare also had a good game on his debut for Eagles while the debutants captain Courage Denias gave Mighty Bulls striker-turned-defender Salim Milanzi a torrid afternoon.

In Gwanda reigning Soccer Star of the Year and 2008 Premiership Golden Boot winner Evans Chikwaikwai might have failed to make the grade in Poland but he proved his worth to Njube Sundowns as he fired a brace that gave the hosts a 2-0 win over league newboys Bantu Rovers at Pelandaba.

There was also a winning start for Madinda Ndlovu as the former Zimbabwe winger watched his rebuilding exercise at Highlanders immediately bear fruits when yielding a 1-0 victory over Gunners in their first game at Barbourfields.

Ndlovu had been coaching in Botswana before he answered to a call to come back and take over the reigns at Bosso.

On Sunday, he threw into the fray a youthtful team with some promoted from the Highlanders Under-19 squad, but his team is, however, expected to revolve around veterans Richard Choruma, Gift Lunga, Gilbert Banda, Johannes Ngodzo and Stephen Alimenda.

Champions Monomotapa played second fiddle to debutants Highway but, as was usually the case last season, Monoz still managed to grind out a result and Charles Chiutsa's headed home a late sucker punch for at Dzivaresekwa.

Highway assistant coach Callisto Pasuwa was pleased with his team's overall showing but noted that the Mutare outfit, who fluffed a number of chances, needed to improve on their finishing.

"We will have to work hard on our finishing because for us it was basically Highway against their goalkeeper Godfrey Mangove.

"But I noticed that we were thin in attack. In terms of passing the ball around, we were good but we got punished from a counter attack after Mike Bingadadi had just failed to convert a good chance for us, so I think we have to learn to take our chances at this level of the game," Pasuwa said.

Monoz coach Rodwell Dhlakama acknowledged that Highway played well but believes the champions' experience made the difference in the game.

"It was more of enthusiasm against talent and experience in the way Highway came at us.

"If you put a lot of effort where it is not necessary you are bound to make mistakes at critical stages of the game because the concentration levels would have fizzled out and that is how we punished them.

"But compared to what we saw in the friendly match we played against them I thought they played very well as a team and they have improved.

"We also made some changes to our team as we tried different combinations because we are looking beyond just our league games, we have to re-strategise for the Champions League game against Ajax Cape Town.

"We didn't have Asani Nhongo, Eddie Chitato and Darryl Nyandoro while Fidelis Mangezi played his first game in a long time and we also used Tapiwa Khumbuyani for the first time when he came on as substitute for Brian Mapfumo," Dhlakama said.

The Monoz coach was also at Rufaro a day later where Premiership side Hwange turned on a brave run to hold fancied CAPS United 0-0 and he believes the coalminers and Highway showed there will be tough competition in the league this season.

"Given the way Highway played and what I saw from Hwange, it will be tough for teams to just pick points whether at home or away.

"I believe there will be no easy games.

"I was also happy with the improved refereeing, maybe it is early days but I think there is an improvement in the standards of officiating," Dhlakama said.

Army side Black Rhinos, who kept a tight lid on their pre-season preparations, posted a surprise 2-1 win over Lengthens at Rufaro.

Collin Mahara's Kiglon showed a lot of character when coming from 0-2 down to draw with Shooting Stars at Chibuku.

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