Stage set for thrilling title race in Zimbabwe top-flight

Dynamos striker Christian Epoupa. Supplied

Black Rhinos, How Mine and Ngezi Platinum are tied on 31 points at the log summit as the Zimbabwe Premier League reaches the halfway mark, and with a mere two points separating the top six teams, the stage is set for perhaps the most thrilling title contests ever.

Going into the second-half of the season however, it is Dynamos, FC Platinum and Ngezi who apparently possess the requisite quality and strength in depth to last the distance in what will undoubtedly be a long and physically demanding campaign.

Below, KweséESPN looks closely at the trio's performances so far, their key players and prospects going forward.


Dynamos' dramatic transformation from ailing giants to genuine title contenders has been one of the major highlights of the campaign so far.

The 21-time Zimbabwe champions are undoubtedly the team of the moment, going into the midseason break on the back of an eight match unbeaten run which has taken in six wins and two draws.

In fact, the Harare giants would actually be top of the log had their match at Chapungu not been abandoned following the collapse of a goalpost as they led 4-0 midway through the second-half.

That outstanding tie would also make Dembare the league's most prolific team with 26 goals, and it is the fine form of their attackers which has propelled them into the heat of the title race.

Dynamos had managed just three wins in the first eight matches to plunge into unfamiliar territory nearer the foot of the log table.

Back in those troubled days, the team's executive was often holding crisis meetings twice a week amid sporadic protests from an increasingly restive support base.

Suddenly though, the front trio of Christian Epoupa, Denver Mukamba and Emmanuel Mandiranga clicked and it has been raining goals in the premiership ever since.

After scoring a mere seven in their first eight matches of the campaign, Dynamos have since hit the target 19 times in the last eight, including the outstanding Chapungu encounter.

If Mukamba can sustain his resurgence, his combination with the robust Epoupa is certain to continue troubling premiership defences.

Twenty-one-year-old Aces Youth Soccer academy graduate Mandiranga, who is in his fourth season in the top flight, has also weighed in with some crucial goals but it is the emergence of Platinum juniors product Cleopas Kapupurike as a credible attacking option which should excite the Dynamos faithful the most.

There is some depth too, with Masimba Mambare and Quality Kangadze ready to seize the chance to impress.

Mutasa would however need to reorganise his defence and avoid the kind of lapses that which have seen Dynamos conceding 12 goals in 15 matches.

FC Platinum

The Zvishavane-based miners have gone after the league's best players almost every year since their promotion into the top flight in 2011, yet title glory always seems to find a way to elude them.

The hope this time around was that things would take a turn for the better, especially following the arrival of another batch of top talent in the form of forward Gift Mbweti, midfielder Brett Amidu and winger Talent Chawapiwa.

In the past two or so seasons Norman Mapeza's team had also added Rodwell Chinyengetere, Brian Muzondiwa, Marshal Mudehwe, Nqobizitha Masuku and Gerald Takwara to their fold.

Yet they have continued to struggle to assert their dominance and perhaps the big surprise is that Platinum remain just three points off the summit after half their 16 matches to date ended in draws.

They may have lost only once, but the Zvishavane-based miners have been far from convincing, dropping points against teams such as Bulawayo City, Shabanie and Harare City.

Platinum's strength in depth however means they can never be overlooked in the title race. And although they have lost speedy winger Chawapiwa to South African side Baroka, Pure Platinum still possess more than enough fire power to harm any opponent.

One man who could prove pivotal in the quest for a maiden league title is former Hwange forward Mbweti, who is gradually rediscovering his hunger for goal after a slow start to life at his new base.

Furthermore, Platinum have arguably the most solid defence in the league with a mere seven goals conceded in 16 matches.

Mapeza's biggest challenge is to inculcate a winning mentality while also making sure that all key members of his expansive squad remain adequately motivated and match fit to kick on when needed.

Ngezi Platinum

Ngezi Platinum are in only their second season in the top flight, yet they have already done enough to warrant serious consideration as genuine title contenders.

In fact, so far this season, no team has spent more time at the top of the log table than the Mhondoro-based side.

Perhaps the only club capable of rivalling Platinum on the remuneration side of the game, Ngezi have used their financial muscle to good effect, pulling in experienced players such Godknows Murwira, Patson Jaure, Dominic Mukandi, Kenneth Bulaji, Quad Amin and Liberty Chakoroma.

Their scouting department has also proved extremely capable after unearthing hitherto unknown talents in the form of Terrence Dzukamanja, Donald Teguru, Tatenda Mtchisa, Keith Mupera and goalkeeper Nelson Chadya.

Teguru and Dzukamanja have scored four goals each, and their form and fitness could prove crucial as Ngezi look to sustain their title challenge well into the second-half of the season.

But while their forward line has been overly effective with 25 goals, Ngezi's defence has continued to frustrate after conceding 15 goals in 17 matches, the most among the top seven teams.

If Ndiraya can patch up the holes at the back, there is little doubt Ngezi have the capacity to take their title challenge to the very final weeks of season and even run away with the crown.