The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
FC Platinum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2) 3
Nyasa Bullets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 2
FC Platinum held off Nyasa Big Bullets to make it to the Caf Champions League first round following a hard fought triumph over the Malawians in a preliminary stage, second leg fixture at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday, a match where the Zimbabwean champions played with one man short for most of the time.
It was an action filled seesaw battle in which FC Platinum faced elimination with the scores level at 2-2 until substitute Perfect Chikwende ensured the men from Zvishavane made it to the next round with a header 10 minutes before the end. The other scorers for Pure Platinum Play were Devon Chafa from the penalty spot and Never Tigere. Peter Banda and Patrick Phiri were on target for the visitors.
FC Platinum will now play against the winner between UD Songo of Mozambique and Simba Sports Club of Tanzania.
Cameroonian striker, Albert Eonde was given a straight red card by Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe in the 26th minute for a lunge on Precious Sambani in the middle of the park. Eonde was in tears as he walked off the field.
FC Platinum started off brightly when they were awarded a penalty in the fourth minute. Gift Mbweti was brought down in the box by Yamikani Fodoya and Sikazwe pointed to the spot. Chafa sent Ernest Kakhobwe the wrong way.
With a one man advantage, the visitors hit back in brilliant style with half-an-hour played, Banda with a stunning goal struck from outside the box with what seemed like a cross from the right only for the ball to sail over Wallace Magalane.
Tigere restored Platinum’s lead eight minutes before the break when he blasted in from close range after being put through inside the box.
With Tigere having rattled the cross bar in the 64th minute, Nyasa Big Bullets refused to give in, with the scores level at 2-2 in the 73rd minute, the impressive Phiri controlling the ball with the chest before firing past Magalane. Had it ended that way FC Platinum would have been eliminated from the competition on the away goals rule.
Mapeza removed Chafa and replaced him with Chikwende with 12 minutes left. The move paid off as Chikwende, two minutes after coming rose high to head in a Raphael Muduviwa cross from the right.
The Malawians were not giving up easily with substitute, former Orlando Pirates striker Chiukepo Msowoya’s effort coming off the cross bar two minutes into the referee’s optional time. FC Platinum managed to withstand the barrage and walked away victorious.
A delighted Mapeza conceded it was not easy for him and his players playing with one man short. He believes victory was achieved because his players stood firm as a group.
“It’s always difficult to play against 11 men, it was difficult for me as a coach, it was difficult for the players outside there but at the end of the day we worked hard as a group and I am happy we are going to the next round,’’ Mapeza said.
He bemoaned the inconsistency displayed by his team, which he attributed to a loss of key players. Midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe was deployed in central defence where he partnered skipper Gift Bello.
“We have lost players, it’s not going to be easy, we have been working on combinations, this week Madzongwe is playing as a centre back, next week he is playing as a midfielder, we are struggling in terms of consistency, we lost the core of the team and its difficult especially building another team during the middle of the season.”
Nyasa Big Bullets coach, Zimbabwean Kalisto Pasuwa felt that his boys were punished for making mistakes at the back, which he thought was maturity since most of his players are still young.
“It’s as this stage where we need maturity, the boys maybe were playing the ball in front of the goalkeeper, a mistake we were being punished for, they are still young, they are still learning, that’s a stage where for a small mistake you are punished,” Pasuwa said.
The former Warriors and Dynamos coach was still proud of the way his boys played, seeing that he is building the team around youngsters.
FC Platinum: W Magalane, D Chafa(Chikwende 78 mins), K Madzongwe, R Muduviwa, G Nsiala(Sibanda 66 mins), N Tigere,W Stima, G Bello, R Pavari, A Eonde, G Mbweti
Nyasa Big Bullets: E Kakhobwe, C Kaira, C Petro, Y Fodoya(Msowoya 46 mins), N Nyasulu, G Chirwa(Zonda 46 mins), P Sambani, C Idana, P Banda, P Phiri, Munthali( Kajoke 70 mins)