By Sheldon Hakata
FOOTBALL is a sport that has gained a reputation for producing thrills and spills across the globe.
Zimbabwe has had its moments too where the question: ‘Did he just do that!’ pops up once in a while.
Such is the dearth of natural talent in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League that the whole nation had to look up to a player who, under normal circumstances, would be enjoying his retirement far away from the madding crowds at stadiums.
But he just did that!
Last Saturday, Herentals FC owner and striker Innocent Benza scored his maiden Castle Lager Premier Soccer League goal at Rufaro Stadium.
The striker defied critics and all odds, at the ripe age of 46, by burying a cross from Brighton Majarira in superb fashion.
Neatly controlling the ball with his chest, Benza took it in his stride before unleashing a rising shot past Chapungu goalminder Talbert Shumba.
That was a goal that makes soccer legends, one that leaves stuttering young PSL players green with envy.
And yes, green, the colour of life, was what made this goal the gem it was!
As has become the norm with the PSL, there were no cameras to capture that ‘historic’ goal.
But just when it looked like Herentals would cap it all with a win, defender Carlos Mavhurume beat his own goalkeeper, giving Chapungu the all-important equaliser through that own-goal.
With the season at an advanced stage and title hopes shattered, most teams are anticipating a strong finish to the campaign.
The remaining fixtures are not going to be easy for the premiership clubs as some are easily surrendering points against sides they are expected to roll over.
It was a horror weekend for two of the three title contenders as they meekly gave in to their opponents.
Chicken Inn were stunned by inconsistent ZPC Kariba in a match which coach Joey Antipas believes the absence of three players due to injury heavily contributed to their disappointing 1-0 defeat.
Chicken Inn have 44 points from 24 matches.
They have scored 32 goals while conceding 17 in those matches.
Tough fixtures await them in the coming few weeks.
Chicken Inn are yet to face CAPS United, FC Platinum and Triangle in the running for a top finish.
The Gamecocks will face unpredictable Yadah at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.
ZPC Kariba, 10th on the log standings with 30 points from 24 matches, host struggling Shabanie Mine at Nyamhunga Stadium tomorrow.
Shabanie are still smarting from a 5-1 drubbing by Ngezi Platinum Stars and are yet to register a win in their last nine outings.
Just last week, Tonderai Ndiraya’s men cranked up the pressure on their fellow platinum miners, FC Platinum, who had been stunned by Harare City to close the gap to just one point.
However, following Mhondoro-based platinum miners’ shock defeat to relegation-threatened Mutare City on Sunday, the gap has increased once again with FC Platinum now leading by a mere four points, with nine matches to go.
Ngezi Platinum Stars are on second position with 51 points from 24 matches while Highlanders sit on position six after 22 matches with 36 points to their credit.
However, Madamburo travel to Highlanders on Sunday and failure to get maximum points in this encounter could be catastrophic.
Highlanders will go into the match licking their wounds from two defeats in a row.
On Thursday last week, they were thumped 3-2 by Chicken Inn at Barbourfields in the league, while on Sunday they succumbed to a 2-nil defeat by bitter rivals Dynamos in the President Inauguration Trophy at the National Sports Stadium.
At this stage of the season last year, Ngezi Platinum Stars looked like they had strolled to their first league championship, but faltered near the end.
Ngezi Platinum Stars’ run-in looks intimidating with games against Highlanders, CAPS United and a potential title decider against FC Platinum still on their to-do list.
Dynamos have experienced a slightly better second half of the season compared to the disastrous first half.
Dynamos did not record any win in the first seven games, drawing three while losing four times, in the first half.
From the five games played in the second half of the season, DeMbare have managed six points out of 15.
Dynamos are 13th on the log standings, having a total of 26 points from 22 matches they have played so far.
DeMbare have conceded 23 goals and scored 18 goals.
DeMbare travel to Bulawayo City in their next fixture, a team they beat 2-1 in the reverse fixture.
Bulawayo City went down 2-1 to Triangle in their last fixture on Sunday.
CAPS United welcome Nichrut who are bubbling from a 2-0 victory against Yadah.
Forgotten striker Rodrick Mutuma scored a brace.
Being a former Makepekepe son, Mutuma might cause a lot of problems to the Harare giants as he did against his other former club Yadah at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Bulawayo Chiefs FC vs Black Rhinos (Luveve Stadium)
FC Platinum vs Mutare City Rovers (Mandava Stadium)
Harare City FC vs Herentals FC (Rufaro Stadium)
Chapungu FC vs Triangle United (Ascot)
Yadah FC vs Chicken Inn FC (National Sports Stadium)
ZPC Kariba vs Shabanie Mine (Nyamhunga Stadium)
Bulawayo City FC vs Dynamos FC (Barbourfields Stadium)
Caps United FC vs Nichrut (National Sports Stadium)
Highlanders FC vs Ngezi Platinum Stars FC (BF)
(All matches kick off at 3pm)