The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
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FC PLATINUM coach, Norman Mapeza yesterday expressed satisfaction with his team putting up a courageous fight to secure a point against South African giants Orlando Pirates in their Caf Champions League group stage opening fixture at a packed Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
It was certainly the biggest crowd that has been witnessed at Barbourfields in over a decade, with most of the fans backing the Soweto giants while FC Platinum also did enjoy some considerable support. Thousands of people were turned away from Barbourfields as the 23 000 tickets that were said to have been printed for the match were sold out. Multitudes that made it into Emagumeni to support the two teams were treated to some entertaining football, with the match having all the ingredients, with the only thing that was missing being goals.
Mapeza, whose team was playing in the Caf Champions League group stage for the first time in history certainly did not disappoint as they matched their opponents in all aspects of the game. The former Warriors midfielder said while he had looked to win the match was glad to take the point.
“Of course we wanted to win the game but I can’t complain, it was a massive performance from the boys. I am happy with the draw, I am more than happy with the draw,’’ Mapeza said.
With the team heading off to Tunisia on Tuesday for a clash with Esperance, Mapeza is looking for some improvement from his team.
“It was a good game of football, I think everybody saw it. We are new to this game, I think we just need to keep working hard. On Tuesday we are leaving for Tunisia. For me as a coach I think it’s a good result we got today, our focus now is on the Esperance game,’’ he said.
On the crowd, Mapeza applauded the fans who turned up, especially his team’s supporters who he felt were sparkling on the day in backing the Zimbabwean champions.
“I will only applaud our supporters, I think they were brilliant today, but as for the other fans, everybody has got a choice, you can’t force someone to support us.”
Orlando Pirates coach, Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic was full of praise for FC Platinum, a team he described as being of high-quality and having a great coach.
“We have played against a very good team coached by a very good coach, it has been a like a game of chess where we really needed to care of every details, I would say that doing the homework and looking at the opponent they came with the set up that we had expected,’’ Sredojevic said.
He said coming to Bulawayo, they looked not to concede as well as be courageous by finding an away goal and only achieved one of their targets.
On FC Platinum’s chances in the competition, the Serbian said with all the four teams in Group B having a point each, there is still all to play for in the remaining matches.
“It’s two Anglophone and two Francophone teams in our group, we wish FC Platinum all the best, I would say that the group is wide open, yesterday draw, today draw, means there is still so much to be played for. With the quality they are having, with the commitment, everything is open,’’ said Sredojevic.
FC Platinum skipper, Petros Mhari was superb in goals with three brilliant point blank saves to deny Pirates. Justin Shonga twice failed to beat Mhari with the impressive Thembinkosi Lorch also seeing his attempt at goal from close range blocked by the home team’s captain.
FC Platinum did get their chances, the remarkable Kelvin Madzongwe forcing a save off Buccaneers goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane who dived well to his right to push the midfielder’s effort out for a corner. Local hero, Kudakwashe Mahachi gave the FC Platinum defenders a torrid time in the 74 minutes he spent on the field of play and received a round of applause when he was substituted and replaced by Vincent Pule.
FC Platinum: Petros Mhari, Farai Madhanaga, Devon Chafa , Kelvin Madzongwe, Raphael Mudhuviwa, Mkhokheli Dube (Nhamo 86 mins) , Ali Sadiki(Mbweti 76 mins), William Stima, Gift Bello, Rahman Kutsanzira, Elvis Moyo
Orlando Pirates: Jackson Mabokgwane, Thembinkosi Lorch, Happy Jele, Kudakwashe Mahachi (Pule 74 mins), Justin Shonga (Mulenga 65 mins), Musa Nyatama, Marshal Munetsi, Xola Mlambo (Mntambo 86 mins), Bulelani Ndengane, Innocent Maela, Asavela Mbekile