HARARE – As the country’s oldest football club, Highlanders have for years now struggled to maintain their status as one of the giants of domestic football.
The Bulawayo giants’ last league title came way back in 2006 when Methembe Ndlovu was still in charge of the side.
Since then, Bosso have had to watch from a distance as smaller and now defunct clubs like Monomotapa, Gunners and Motor Action have gone on to be crowned champions of local football.
In the same period, Dynamos have gone on to win a further five league titles.
Last season, Highlanders were not even the top team in Bulawayo as city rivals Chicken Inn went on to clinch their maiden championship.
But this season, things are looking bright for Bosso since Dutch coach Erol Akbay took over at the start of the year.
Highlanders’ renaissance commenced towards the end of last year when interim coach Amin Soma-Phiri and technical advisor Cosmas “Tsano” Zulu led the club to the NetOne Easycall glory.
However, since Akbay’s arrival, the Bulawayo giants have been a different beast altogether.
In eight league matches, Bosso have lost only once to log leaders FC Platinum.
Highlanders have also been scoring for fun this season and with 15 goals they are the highest scoring side so far.
Only third-placed CAPS United come close with 13 goals.
At the weekend, Highlanders returned to second place on the log three points behind the platinum miners, after a well-deserved 0-2 win over Dynamos.
Rising star Prince Dube was the beacon of the show — scoring a beauty at the near post before setting up Bruce Kangwa for the second.
The 18-year-old striker was a constant threat to the DeMbare defence whenever he was in possession.
Bosso employed a high pressing game which stopped DeMbare from building from the back.
In the end, Dynamos were forced to launch ponderous long balls from the back in the hope their forwards would get a lucky break.
Both Highlanders goals were a result of forward Knox Mutizwa winning possession by pressuring DeMbare players around the halfway line before launching a rapid counter attack.
Akbay’s tactical prowess brought Highlanders’ first win against DeMbare in a league match since 2006.
Like 10 years ago, Saturday’s win could be the turning point for Highlanders’ season.
“The key today was actually when they (Dynamos) play a 1v1 system at the back and this gave us some space; that’s why we scored the first goal,” Akbay said after the game.
“The second goal was exactly the copy of the first goal. That means when we gave them pressure, we were really dangerous. We had to change tactics but at the end of the day we got three points.”
Despite being the first coach after Ndlovu to deliver a league win for Bosso over DeMbare, the Dutchman is keeping his feet on the ground and wants his side to continue with the progress they are making.
“Every time I win a match, I feel very happy. For most people it’s 10 years since we last beat Dynamos but for me every win is the same just like today,” he said.
“For me it’s just a normal victory like the others.”
The Dutchman added: “If you are in second place on the log, you have to be happy and to win against Dynamos in Harare, it gives us satisfaction.”
In these opening eight matches of the season, it looked as if FC Platinum would run away with the league title without any resistance, but Akbay’s Highlanders are showing they will be no easy pushovers with the Total Football they are playing.