Gunners were left fuming on Saturday after being dumped out of the $1 million Mbada Diamonds Cup after losing 6-5 to FC Platinum in a quarter-final match penalty shootout at the Colliery Stadium in Hwange.
It was a game of two halves — two goals for either side within 120 seconds in the first half and an eventful second half which saw two red cards being dished to either side.
Gunners coach Moses Chunga was shown the red card in the 79th minute for dissent and unsporting behaviour, complaining vehemently after Zephaniah Ngodzo had pulled down Cliff Sekete.
The striker had broken clear. Ngodzo was then expelled five minutes from time for dissent after challenging referee Albert Mbuse’s decision to award Gunners a free-kick from what seemed to be a 50-50 situation.
Last week, Gunners beat FC Platinum 2-1 in a league match at Larfarge to complete a double after winning 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Maglas. Last week’s win at Larfarge was characterised by unfair refereeing, reportedly in favour of Platinum.
Gunners boss Cuthbert Chitima was fuming later in the night: “What can we do when these people are killing football?”
While one could not tell whether it was directed at Platinum or match officials, matters boiled over when some fans threatened to beat up Mbuse accusing him of bias.
While Gunners felt hard done by some decisions, they had a chance to wrap up the match from some clearcut chances but were thwarted by man-of-the-match, Platinum goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube.
The former Gunners goalkeeper produced two topdrawer saves in the 69th and 73rd minutes to deny Qadr Amin and Sekete as the Platinum defence was caught ball-watching on both occasions.
In fact, Gunners were more cautious in the opening 37 minutes when they had a clear path in midfield where Joel Ngodzo was simply out of form and on the right wing where Itai Gwandu toiled in the sweltering heat in a bid to stop dribbling wizard Michelle Katsvairo.
It was Katsvairo who crafted the quick response after Charles Sibanda’s opener in the 37th minute, when he waltzed past Gwandu on the byline and his cut-back fell to Phineas Bamusi to beat Dube at close range with a first-time shot.
There was no momentum from Gunners to build on that equaliser, and like Platinum, seemed to be content with playing out a draw in the opening stanza before the match exploded in the second half with the red cards and the shootout.
For Platinum, Sibanda still remains danger man and the introduction of Benjamin Marere for Donald Ngoma, added more pace to the attack, but to no avail as Gunners’ Pardon Chinungwa and Hardlife Zvirekwi defended for dear life.
Platinum will meet Dynamos in the semi-final on November at a venue yet to be decided, a week after the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League meeting. The Harare giants beat Shooting Stars 3-0 at Maglas with goals from Tawanda Muparati, Rodreck Mutuma and Denver Mukamba.
Dynamos, also chasing a league and cup double, are on the roll having won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions. Platinum need to up their game if they entertain any chances of beating the Harare side.
The other semi-final will feature surprise packages Zimbabwe Saints who beat Kiglon 9-8 in a shootout in Hippo Valley and Motor Action who scrapped past Blue Ribbon 1-0.