TITLE RACE HEADS FOR THE WIRE | Dynamos needed a last-gasp winner against Chapungu at the National Sports Stadium yesterday to save their dithering campaign in the Castle Lager Premiership soccer title race as they had to respond to the challenge by rivals FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars.
The Glamour Boys nearly watched their dream disappear on a frustrating afternoon for the giants but second half substitute Quality Kangadze scored the priceless goal with just two minutes of regulation time remaining to ensure the race goes down to the wire in the remaining three games of the season.
Playing with the knowledge that they could have virtually lost their bid in this year’s race if they had failed to win yesterday, Lloyd Mutasa’s men needed to respond in a big way after Chicken Inn had displaced them from third place with their 1-0 win over Tsholotsho on Friday before FC Platinum increased the gap between them and the Harare giants to five points with the 3-0 win over ZPC Kariba on Saturday.
But on 61 points, the Glamour Boys remain two points behind FC Platinum and leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars who also won their match 1-0 away at Bantu Rovers yesterday.
The pressure was evident from the onset after FC Platinum had taken overnight control of the race with the convincing 3-0 victory over ZPC Kariba at Mandava on Saturday.
Chapungu, however, could not give away anything on a silver platter. In fact, the Air Force of Zimbabwe side threatened to spoil the day for the hosts but they missed some gilt-edged chances in this drama-filled match, which saw players and officials from both sides exchanging nasty words at the end of the 90 minutes.
Nonetheless Mutasa, whose side had failed to pick up maximum points in their previous three outings, was overwhelmed by the win which came as a massive relief to the dressing room.
“I think the difference was the never say die spirit,” said Mutasa.
“During the preparations of this encounter I think I talked about these youngsters having the pedigree to go all the way.
“You could see it was a tightly-contested match but the youngsters never gave up until we got it. So the feeling is great.
“We have always said this is an institution that believes that the war is over when it is really over and we would want to be in the mix until the end.”
Dynamos are back two points behind log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars and second-placed FC Platinum who both took their tally to 63 points and are only separated by goal difference at the top of the table.
Whilst the two platinum sides have been enjoying good form of late, Mutasa’s men have been struggling to string together results following the draws against ZPC Kariba and Tsholotsho and the defeat to Ngezi Platinum in their last three matches.
But DeMbare toiled with no clear-cut chances in the first half in which they also needed some desperate defending to stop a dangerous move into the box by Allen Tavarwisa and Osborne Mukuradare after 21 minutes of play.
Still there was always threats from the wings where diminutive wingers Blessing Sahondo and Ian Nyoni used their pace to the good. Veteran Philip Marufu also made a spirited run down the flank later in the second half only for Sahondo to miscue his effort with goalkeeper Tonderai Mateyaunga badly exposed.
At the other end, DeMbare skipper Ocean Mushure, Masimba Mambare, Joel Epoupa and Cleopas Kapupurika were making regular probes.
The pressure on their top marksman Epoupa, who has not scored in the last seven matches, was telling and the Cameroonian had some form of redemption when he provided the assist with a well crafted move on the left by-line.
Kangadze, who was introduced as 69th minute substitute, became the saviour for DeMbare with a brilliant header after meeting a fine cross from the Cameroonian.
With Ngezi Platinum Stars still firmly in control, the race for this year’s big crown now looks exciting as the log leaders still have a pending date against FC Platinum while Dynamos and Chicken Inn clash in the last match of the season.
But DeMbare have some tricky assignments where they have consecutive away games against relegation fighters Bulawayo City next and then Bantu Rovers who have already been demoted.
Ngezi Platinum will have to define their season in the next two games as they host Chicken Inn before travelling to FC Platinum and then conclude at home against Triangle.
FC Platinum’s road looks tricky as well with Tsholotsho coming up next, Ngezi and then Chapungu.
Chapungu are almost safe from relegation despite yesterday’s defeat by Dynamos and their coach Tendai Chikuni said they will press for more points to be safe.
Chikuni said the championship race has reached an exciting stage and was wary of his side’s involvement in deciding the destiny of this year’s championship.
“If you look at the title race, it’s very difficult to tell. We are still to play some of the teams that are fighting for the title. So it’s very difficult,” said Chikuni.