Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League title hopefuls Ngezi Platinum were brought down to earth with a bang on Sunday after a 1-0 loss at relegation candidates Mutare City left them four points behind log leaders FC Platinum.
Ngezi had made the trip to face the Manicaland-based side with their tails up after thumping Shabanie Mine 5-1 in midweek to come to within a point of Platinum, who themselves had gone down 1-0 to Harare City.
But the roles were reversed on matchday 24 as Ngezi’s unexpected stumble at one of the weakest teams in the top-flight came just 24 hours after Platinum had regained their composure to dispatch visiting Bulawayo Chiefs 3-1.
The weekend league programme had been amended after the authorities postponed the Harare derby pitting traditional giants Dynamos and CAPS United, to pave way for the inauguration of President Emmerson Munangagwa.
The clash between Highlanders and Shabanie was also rescheduled, along with Harare City’s tie against Black Rhinos.
Ngezi coach Tonderai Ndiraya could never have foreseen any danger against a team who had won just twice in their previous 23 matches. So porous has been Mutare’s defence they had managed just one clean-sheet all season.
It did not take long for hosts to seize the initiative, however, with Billy Vheremu netting the opener on 13 minutes to leave Ngezi chasing the match for the entire afternoon.
While Ngezi can still bank on the consolation that they remain within touching distance of the summit, the same cannot be said of Chicken Inn, whose 1-0 loss at home to Kariba has left them 11 points adrift of the log leaders. It was a first defeat eight matches for the 2015 champions.
Kariba, on the other hand, had managed just one win in their last five matches, but they held on for all three points once Tawanda Nyamandwe slammed home from close range on the half-hour mark.
Meanwhile, defender Kudzai Chigwida scored a last-gasp winner as fourth-placed Triangle made it an impressive third consecutive wins after dismissing Bulawayo City 2-1 at Gibbo Stadium.
Triangle, who have turned out to be the surprise package of the season, are now just three points behind Chicken Inn.
At the other end of the table, Nichrut eased their relegation worries somewhat after Rodrick Mutuma’s brace handed them a 2-0 win at home to Yadah.
Although the three points did not change Nichrut’s position in the standings as they remain third from bottom, a tally of 24 points puts the Gweru-based outfit just two behind Dynamos in 13th place.
Former Dynamos man Mutuma opened the scoring from the spot on 22 minutes before completing his double seven minutes from time.
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