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Midlands in celebration and mourning

THE curtain came down on the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season with FC Platinum getting to permanently keep the trophy after winning their third consecutive title, while Gweru had two teams relegated.

While the Midlands province celebrated FC Platinum’s victory, a sombre atmosphere engulfed Gweru as airmen Chapungu and TelOne were relegated.

FC Platinum beat Caps United 1-0 through a Perfect Chikwende strike in the title decider on Saturday. While the southern part of Midlands was celebrating, Chapungu were held to a 2-2 draw by Highlanders at Ascot Stadium in the provincial capital to bow out of the topflight league together with newcomers TelOne, who were thrashed 4-1 by Chicken Inn.

Chapungu and TelOne’s heartbreaks were driven by Yadah and Herentals, who staged miraculous escapes from relegation by winning their last games.

Going into the final weekend, two out of six teams, Bulawayo Chiefs, TelOne, Harare City, Chapungu, Herentals and Yadah were fighting not to join Mushowani and Hwange in Division One.

Herentals and Yadah were in the bottom four, tied on 38 points, Chapungu were just a place above the drop zone with 39 points, while Harare City and Yadah were tied on 40 points. Chiefs went into the final weekend on 41 points.

Yadah beat Mushowani Stars 3-2, while Herentals who are waiting for a PSL disciplinary committee’s decision on their alleged match-fixing case against Black Rhinos, edged Chiefs 1-0 in Bulawayo to escape the chop.

The survival battle had lots of twists on the final day as TelOne, who needed just a point to be safe, collapsed and Chiefs held their hearts hoping for results at other centres to turn in their favour after going down to Herentals.

Forgotten Soccer Star of the Year Denver Mukamba scored two beautiful goals for Chapungu against Highlanders, but they were all in vain, as the air force side sunk into Division One football.

Should Herentals be found guilty of match-fixing and points docked, Chapungu might find themselves back in the Premiership.

Harare City’s 0-0 draw against Ngezi Platinum Stars saved them from the chop, as that took their points’ tally to 41. The fact that six teams fought for survival on the final day is testimony that the level of competitiveness in the Premiership has improved.

Interestingly, only Manica Diamonds out of the four teams that were promoted to the Premiership at the beginning of the season survived with ease. 

Experienced coaches Rahman Gumbo, Lloyd Mutasa and Tembo Chuma failed to save TelOne from the chop.  Hwange, who had a good start to the season before going on a freefall, were also relegated alongside debutantes Mushowani Stars from Bindura.

Meanwhile, in the top scorers’ chart, former Chicken Inn striker Clive Augusto’s 14 goals scored in the opening 17 matches of the season before he was signed by South African side Maritzburg United won him the Top Goal Scorer award. Chronicle

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