ZVISHAVANE – Highlanders remained on course for a league and cup double after a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Harare City in the Mbada Diamonds Cup semifinals at Mandava Stadium on Saturday.
Veteran Harare City defender David Kutyauripo was the villain after missing a spot kick during the penalty lottery while Highlanders managed to convert all their efforts from the spot after the match had ended 2-2 in regulation time.
DECISIVE MOMENT: Highlanders goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya dives to his left to save Harare City defender David Kutyauripo’s spot kick at Mandava Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Auntony Zinyange
Former Caps United and Dynamos player Kutyauripo's body language when his turn came to take City's fourth spot kick was not convincing.
The veteran defender appeared hesitant from the time he began the long walk to the penalty spot.
And Kutyauripo must have lost his nerve when Bosso keeper Diya took off his gloves and prepared to use his bare hands to defend his goal.
Diya went on to win the psychological battle over Kutyauripo when he went full length to keep out the defender's effort.
Mthulisi Maphosa, Bheki Ncube, Bruce Kangwa, Njabulo Ncube and Diya were on target for Highlanders during the penalty shoot – out while James Jam, Willard Kalongoda and Crispen Dickson converted for City.
Silas Songani and Crybert Muvuti scored for the Sunshine Boys during regulation time while Highlanders got their goals from Bheki Ncube and their keeper Diya, who scored from the spot.
The encounter got off to a cracking pace with Highlanders fashioning the first meaningful attack of the day on two minutes when Masimba Mambare's weak effort was easily collected by City keeper Maxwell Nyamupangengu.
City responded immediately with Jam's powerful goal bound effort being blocked by the Highlanders defence a minute later.
And as the end to end action continued veteran Highlanders striker Njabulo Ncube hit the upright from inside the penalty box on four minutes before heading over a Lawson Nkomo corner kick two minutes later.
But despite the numerous attempts at goal by Bosso, it was the Sunshine Boys who opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Songani struck a beautiful free kick past a flat footed Diya.
The set piece was awarded after Erick Mudzingwa was adjudged to have fouled City striker Vengesai at the edge of the penalty box.
City's lead was short lived though as gangly Bosso midfielder Bheki quickly restored parity four minutes after the Sunshine Boys went ahead following a goal mouth scramble.
Muvuti then restored City's lead on 27 minutes when his long range effort beat Diya all systems out after capitalising on some hesitant defending by the Bulawayo giants.
Both City goals were beautiful and could have been worthy match winners had Highlanders not managed to level matters for the second time when Diya scored from the penalty spot on 31 minutes.
The penalty decision was given after Muvuti brought down Highlanders linkman Simon Munawa in an incident that City coach Bigboy Mawiwi felt happened outside the penalty box.
"It looks like the desired final is supposed to be between the big teams as almost all decisions were going against us and that was not supposed to be a penalty since the incident happened on the edge of the box," Mawiwi said.
While the first half of the match was a fast paced and entertaining affair, the second half was less exciting.
City had a better second half and this came about after Highlanders were forced to make injury inspired changes.
Hillary Madzivanyika failed to return to for the second half after picking up an injury at the stroke of half time and was replaced by Maphosa.
Dumisani Ndlovu also failed to take part in the second half and was replaced by Innocent Mapuranga.
"It a good thing that we managed to get to the final because its been a while since this team has played in a final and I would like to applaud my players for their fighting spirit which they showed by coming back from behind on two occasions," Highlanders coach Kelvin Kaindu said after the match.
City midfielder Songani was chosen as the man of the match.