The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Highlanders Beat Rangers

HIGHLANDERS capped a fine season with a deserved win over Blue Rangers at Gwanzura yesterday but the victory could not do much to grant them the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League crown on the last day of the campaign.

Second half goals from Heritein Masuku and their mainstay this season, Masimba Mambare ensured Kelvin Kaindu's men finished the season tied on 69 points with champions Dynamos but they had to contend with silver medals because of lesser goal difference.

"It's good that we finished on a high note. But we are obviously disappointed that we didn't get the championship after playing so well and losing once the whole season.

"It's unfortunate but I think we have built a strong team. This is a team that no one had given a chance and I believe that is what God has appointed for us to finish second," said Kaindu.

Highlanders knew they just had to finish strongly to enhance their chances of breaking a six-year drought but they were made to sweat earlier on after being put in a corner by a stubborn Rangers side that had nothing to play for save for pride.

Rangers were relegated last week and the way they dominated the early exchanges suggested Partson Ndabambi's men were not prepared to give in easily against the big boys.

Despite having the upper hand, the hosts were disappointing in front of goal with their forward Mcdonald Motsi wasting a handful of scoring opportunities in the opening half hour.

The best chance came in the 14th minute when Motsi broke clear from the middle and with only the goalkeeper to beat he hurried his shot as Ariel Sibanda dived to his right to make a crucial save.

Then Tigere Muparaganda found himself unmarked in the penalty box in the 36th minute but the midfielder could not take the advantage as he miscued his effort wide.

Rangers however appeared insecure with aerial balls inside their box as goalkeeper Pedzisai Gumiremhete made a series of mistakes that could have cost his side.

Highlanders midfielder Bhekimpilo Ncube who had a good game yesterday headed over the crossbar when he responded to a fine cross by Masuku just as referee Robert Mugorosa was about to blow the half time whistle.

Bosso were more determined in the second half and Masuku tipped the scales in their favour when he headed in Highlanders' opener in the 64th minute from across by Ncube.

Masuku had an easy task from close range after Ncube had collected the ball and worked his way into the box to finish off a good run by Mambare from the right flank.

Bruce Kangwa could have doubled Bosso's lead when he got to the end of a defence-splitting pass from captain Innocent Mapuranga but blasted his effort at the advancing goalkeeper and then sent the rebound over the bar.

Bosso however sealed the game in the79th minute when Gumiremhete punched a dangerous cross by substitute Arnold Ndiweni and the ball fell onto the feet of Mambare who responded with a well taken shot.

"We were unlucky to lose this match because we played so well in the first half. The aim was to close down Mthulisi Maphosa whom we believe drives Highlanders and we did that successfully in the first half where we controlled the game. "But we lost it tactically in the second half when we gave them much room to play the ball and they punished us. It was disappointing because didn't use our chances in the first half," said Ndabambi.

Highlanders, who contributed four players to the Soccer Stars of the Year finalists at the weekend, were also presented with more prizes for outstanding individuals at the end of the match.

Mambare one of the favourite for the big award with Dynamos' Denver Mukamba, walked away with three accolades in the monthly awards which carry a US$500 each for being the Player of the month for July, August and September.

Mambare also shared the Top Goal Scorer award for August with teammate Milton Ncube while Mthulisi Maphosa was named the player of the month for June.

Blue Rangers     -  0

Highlanders      -  (0) 2

Teams:

Blue Rangers: P. Gumiremhete, N. Chazika, L. Mdhluli, K. Mazhambe, J. Mrufu, J. Wilson, T. Muparaganda, N. Mukwezaramba, T. Munetsi (E. Gwiliza, 70th minute), S. Hadebe, M. Motsi

Highlanders: A. Sibanda, B. Tshuma, B. Kangwa, I. Mapuranga, D. Ndlovu, M. Maphosa, H. Masuku, K. Mutizwa (M. Sibanda, 86th minute), B. Ncube (A. Ndiweni, 66th minute), C. Dube (B. Chikaka, 58th minute), M. Mambare

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