HIGHLANDERS put up a gritty first half hour performance in which they scored the only goal before fizzling out in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League encounter against a tactically disciplined FC Platinum at Barbourfields yesterday.
Masimba Mambare struck a beautiful dipping volley in the 23rd minute from inside the box that beat a static Tafadzwa Dube in goal for the visitors.
He had received a telling pass from Graham Ncube, himself a beneficiary of good thinking by the gangly Bhekimpilo Ncube who beautifully chest passed the ball to him before Graham pushed the ball once and spotted Mambare lurking on the blind side.
Within a flash, Mambare ghosted behind Qadr Amin and was face to face with Dube and in the next second, Barbourfields was in a delirium.
"That goal from the blind side cost us the match," said a dejected FC Platinum coach Tendai Chikuni after the match.
Highlanders were the first to ask questions in the goal area when Heritani Masuku, clearly the best player on view of the afternoon, found himself on the edge of the box and his well timed crossed missed the right goal post angle by inches.
The visitors, to their credit maintained composure and kept their cool and in the seventh minute, Dumisani Ndlovu was adjudged to have fouled the hard running Donald Ngoma just outside the box and referee Masakadza Makonese rightfully awarded the visitors a freekick. Upstepped Zephaniah Ngodzo whose shot found Ariel Sibanda well positioned.
Ndlovu came in for the suspended Eric Mudzingwa. For Mudzingwa, his presence is ever felt but yesterday, it was clear that even his absence is indeed felt.
FC Platinum were probing the Bosso goal area once more and a mistake by Bhekimpilo, saw Ngoma getting possession of the ball and in a flash, he let loose a bullet from outside the box and again Sibanda was in no nonsense mood.
Highlanders could have gone ahead in the 20th minute when a mistake by goalkeeper Dube off a curling freekick by Bruce Tshuma saw Amin clearing the ball from the line with most in the stands already up in celebration.
A quick counter attack by Bruce Kangwa in the 23rd minute found young Knox Mutizwa on the far right who rode two tackles from the FC Platinum defenders before squaring the ball to Bhekimpilo who chested it to Graham and whose pass to Mambare opened the scoring.
In the 28th minute, visitors' skipper Daniel Vheremu, who also had a good game let go a pile driver from just outside the centre circle which however went over the bar.
Not to be intimidated, Bosso were back in the visitors' final third and this time a Kangwa cross was met first time by Mambare whose shot went agonisingly wide with Dube at sea.
Highlanders' game then slowed down as the visitors suddenly found themselves enjoying more passes, especially on their left flank, whenever Ngoma was in possession. Their undoing though was that Ngoma's crosses found no one on the right side of the field. Dreadlocked Charles Sibanda was also a constant threat to the Highlanders defence with his flashing runs and shots at goal.
Dangerous as they were living, Bosso hung on to their slender lead until half time. In the second half Bosso gaffer, Kelvin Kaindu made a substitution, bringing in Beavan Chikaka for Graham in an effort to add more punch upfront but Chikaka did little to justify his coach's faith in him.
Ten minutes after the break his counterpart Chikuni made a double substitution, pulling out Manondo and Ndiweni for Joel Ngodzo and Michelle Katsvairo. The duo's introduction meant Highlanders were kept on their toes as Chikuni's boys pushed for that elusive equaliser that would also have effectively handed the title to Dynamos.
There was a scare four minutes before full time when substitute, Katsvairo fell inside the box under challenge from the towering Ndlovu but both referee Makonese and first assistant Bernard Matenga seemed not convinced.
Ironically the same officials were in charge of the reverse fixture at Mandava Stadium in which Bosso won 3-1.
A minute before full time, a sucker punch nearly came from the visitors when a freekick from the edge of the box saw Charles selling a dummy to Highlanders goalkeeper, Sibanda, who went with him airborne only for the ball to reach Vheremu whose free header trickled across the face of the goal and into touch for a goal kick.
"It feels good to collect maximum points from a team as good as FC Platinum but once again, we created so many chances which we failed to convert and that is worrying. The race is still on though," said Kaindu.
A dejected Chikuni blamed missed chances for their defeat and blasted his players for that.
"If you can not do basics in football you certainly cannot win matches. We had Highlanders cornered for the better part of the game but still failed to bury the chances that came our way. Credit though goes to Highlanders for their performance," said Chikuni who said they gave their hosts too much respect in the opening 30 minutes.
FC Platinum are still looking for their first goal at Barbourfields Stadium against Highlanders.
Highlanders: A Sibanda, B Tshuma, B Kangwa, D Ndlovu, I Mapuranga, M Maphosa, H Masuku, K Mutizwa (O Zibande 70th minute), G Ncube (B Chikaka 49th minute), B Ncube (P Moyo 61st minute), M Mambare
FC Platinum: T Dube, D Veremu, Q Amin, W Manondo ( J Ngodzo 55th min), A Sadiki (A Gahadzikwa 80th minute), T Kamusoko, Z Ngodzo, C Sibanda, W Ndiweni (M Katsvairo 55th minute), R Muduviwa, D Ngoma.