BULAWAYO – Munyaradzi Diya was the hero for Highlanders after saving a spot kick and converting the winner in his team’s penalty shootout victory over Harare City in the semi-finals of the Mbada Diamonds Cup at Mandava Stadium on Sunday.
The former Dynamos and Zimbabwe Saints shot stopper made all the difference between the two sides after winning a psychological battle against veteran Harare City defender David Kutyauripo.
Kutyauripo’s penalty, which was Harare City’s fourth of the shootout, was saved by Diya after the keeper had removed his gloves and used his bare hands to punch the football away from goal.
While it was obvious that Kutyauripo seemed short of confidence when it was his turn to take a penalty – judging by the way he hesitated as if he was unsure if his turn had come – Diya’s action of taking off his gloves and then insisting on having a feel of the ball must have unsettled the City fullback.
And soon after making that crucial save, Diya immediately switched roles and became the aggressor.
The Bosso keeper beat his opposite number Maxwell Nyamupangedengu for the second time on the day when he slotted home his team’s final spot kick to secure a 5-3 victory that propelled the Bulawayo giants to the final.
Highlanders will play against How Mine in an all Bulawayo final at the end of November after the gold miners beat CAPS United 4-2 after yet another penalty shootout in Harare.
Diya somehow redeemed himself during the penalty shootout after failing to keep out City during regulation time.
It has to be admitted that City scored some very beautiful goals through Silas Songani and Crybert Muvuti but the Highlanders keeper could have done better had he not been caught flat-footed on both occasions.
Redemption came as early as 31 minutes in the first half for Diya after he took up the responsibility of slotting home Highlanders’ second equalizer from the penalty spot after Bosso linkman Simon Munawa had been brought down in the box by a City player.
That goal must have served to calm his nerves as the Warriors reserve keeper went on to make some crucial stops to deny the Sunshine Boys in the second half when Highlanders had become disjointed following injuries to two of their players.
Highlanders head coach Kelvin Kaindu was quick to single out Diya as the hero for the Bulawayo giants in his post-match interview and the Zambian coach was seen sprinting across the field to congratulate his keeper after the final whistle had gone.