Herentals U20 striker Salif Cheya came off the bench to score a late winner in the students’ 1-0 win over fellow title rivals Golden Eagles in a dramatic Ruyamuro Northern Region Division One match played at Motor Action Sports Club today.
Both sides are battling for the sole ticket into the Premier Soccer League with the hosts two points behind log leaders Simba Bhora, while the visitors are third on the table, in a enthralling title race which might go down to the wire.
The first chance of the game fell to Eagles’ Trevor Bunhu in the 7th minute, but he skied his effort over the crossbar after a quickly-taken corner kick by Gilbert Mushangazhike’s men.
Tinashe Mupumha tried his luck from outside the box in 24th minute but he missed the target.
Domimic Mukandi’s slick through pass found Henry Manatsa just after the half-hour mark but the latter’s first time volley was safely collected by Herentals U20 goalkeeper Nevermind Antonio.
Webster Dombo had the chance to thrust the students ahead on the stroke of half time but his well-taken shot on the edge of the box was brilliantly-saved by Eagles goalkeeper Lloyd Majarira.
Neither side could break the deadlock in a first half short of clearcut goalscoring opportunities.
Golden Eagles came back for the second half the better side and nearly took the lead five minutes after the restart but Ray Uchena failed to tap in a pinpoint Bhunu cross.
There was a lengthy stoppage in the 52nd minute after Antonio suffered what looked like a concussion and had to be replaced by Simbarashe Chapanywa.
Eagles came close to opening the scoring in the 60th minute but Tatenda Hapazari’s header from close range went over the crossbar.
Another chance fell to Eagles 12 minutes before full time and it went begging again as Albert Nyamutsaka, with the Herentals keeper to beat, failed to hit the target.
It was all Eagles in the closing stages but against the run of play, Cheya found acres of space on the left flank, but failed to direct his shot goal-wards.
Tanaka Dhlakama beat the offside trap five minutes before full time but could not place the ball over the line as chances continued to be wasted by Paul Benza’s men.
Eagles coach Gilbert Mushangazhike was sent for remonstrating to the referee as tampers flarred in the closing stages on the game.
Cheya made up for his earlier miss when tapped in the winner stoppage time.
Despite the defeat, Mushangazhike felt his charges played good football.
“I think Herentals started the game with long passes and we were playing 3-5-2 and we tried to solve the problem within the game by encouraging the players to stop those long balls,” he said after the game.
“On the defending side we were very slow, but in the second half we managed to adapt to their (Herentals) system.
I was impressed with my team and the way they were passing the ball and creating chances. As you know, in the game, if you don’t convert your chances, you won’t win the game,” he added.