MASVINGO – Highlanders stormed through to the semifinals of the Mbada Diamonds Cup after putting up a flawless second half performance to dispatch Buffaloes 3-0 in a thrilling quarterfinal at Mucheke Stadium on Sunday.
Inspired second half substitutions by Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu led to goals by super substitutes Mthulisi Maphosa and Milton Ncube while the third and final goal came from man-of-the-match Masimba Mambare.
After the match Kaindu paid tribute to his substitutes for changing the complexion of the game.
"We thank God we have qualified to the next round and credit goes to our substitutes for making all the difference," Kaindu said.
The encounter got off to an electric start with Buffaloes first to threaten as early as the first minute through former How Mine striker Steven Sibanda.
Sibanda shot wide after taking advantage of some indecision by Highlanders skipper Innocent Mapuranga.
Two minutes later, it was Sibanda's strike partner Lloyd Katongomara to miss the target after a good build up by the army side.
Highlanders managed to soak the pressure and launched their first meaningful attack on seven minutes but Mambare's goal bound header was cleared by Buffaloes defender Themba Ndlovu.
Both teams continued to create chances but failed to find the target and went to the breather without opening the scoring.
After the break Beaven Chikaka replaced Njabulo Ncube on 51 minutes and this injected some urgency to the Bosso attack.
The Bulawayo giants went on to take control of the match after the introduction of Mthulisi Maphosa for Simon Munawa on the hour mark.
Maphosa headed home the opener with his second touch of the ball off a Bruce Kangwa cross on 63 minutes.
And before Buffaloes could regroup Mambare poked home the second for Bosso on 67 minutes.
This followed some good work on the right flank by Gabriel Nyoni, who whipped in a cross that was teed onto Mambare's path by Chikaka.
Milton Ncube then replaced Bheki Ncube and found the target with his first touch of the ball when he finished off a cross from Chikaka that was palmed onto his path by Buffaloes keeper Blessing Mwandimutsira.
That goal took the stuffing out of Buffaloes and Highlanders could have grabbed a fourth goal with five minutes to go but were denied by a combination of the Buffaloes keeper and the crossbar.
Buffaloes coach Timothy Masachi said his charges had paid the price for missing a lot of chances.
"We paid dearly for the chances that we missed in the first half and in the second half Highlanders made use of their chances and that made all the difference," Masachi said.
Highlanders: Munyaradzi Diya, Erick Mudzingwa, Bruce Kangwa, Dumisani Ndlovu, Simon Munawa, Masimba Mambare, Bhekimpilo Ncube, Hillary Madzvivanyika, Gabriel Nyoni, Njabulo Ncube
Buffaloes: Blessing Mwandimutsira, Bonvolio Mukwena, Simbarashe Nyauzima, Temba Ndlovu, Philip Chandisaita, Prosper Matizanadzo, Shepherd Nkata, Wonder Sithole, Llyord Katongomara, Philip Thembani, Stephen Sibanda