BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Ngezi Platinum Stars coach Erol Akbay has claimed that there is not much of a difference in quality between his players and those of South Africa top-flight league log leaders Wits University despite the touring Mhondoro-based side losing 4-1 in a training match in Rustenburg, South Africa, yesterday.
Former Ngezi star Terrence Dzvukamanja scored a double against his ex-teammates, but Akbay is not worried about the result, as he picked out a lot of positives from his build-up towards the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.
The Dutch coach will be bidding to win the title in his first season with the ambitious club.
He, however, said there is still a lot of tactical work to be done in the next few weeks, as he seeks to discover whether the players that he has can buy into his high tempo style of play.
Akbay said his players still confused him because their performances fluctuate with each passing day.
Yesterday, he took note of a number of positives and believes, with better physical condition, his team could have matched their opponents better.
Ngezi have started to up the ante in their pre-season friendlies, where they have also lined up a match against SuperSport.
“Today, I think we played well considering where we are in terms of our preparations. But we allowed the opponents to dominate the ball a lot, which is not my style of play, especially in the first half. But we had a different set of players later and things changed,” Akbay observed.
“What I liked is that we were playing a team that has got the best players in South Africa and are on top of the log, but we still tried to impose ourselves and play football.
There was not much of a difference in quality between the two teams; it’s just that Wits are in better condition physically.”
With about a month to go before the 2019 season kicks off, the Ngezi Platinum Stars mentor is still trying to learn a few things about his team.
“With these matches and at training, I have a lot of things that I am still trying to see. Can these players do well in this philosophy? Do we have the right players for this kind of style? To be honest, sometimes they surprise, but on other times, they disappoint me,” Akbay said.
He said during the run-up to the start of the league campaign, he wants to give everybody a chance and learn what he can get from every player.
“I am satisfied with the progress we have made, but I still want a few things to improve, especially the way we defend. We are much better in attack, but still I want some improvements,” he said.
“Sometimes the ball is on the wrong player, sometimes it’s on the wrong side, so it’s a lot of detail, but we are working on everything. In the coming weeks, it will be mainly about tactical detail. If you look at today, despite the result, the guys still tried to play football, which is something that satisfied me.”
The former Highlanders mentor has not been afforded time to settle in, as the club have made it clear that they want the league title.
Ngezi Platinum Stars finished second behind FC Platinum last season and sacked coach Tonderai Ndiraya once they had convinced themselves that they would not be able to pip Norman Mapeza’s side.
While they had a bit of a delay in kick-starting their pre-season preparations, they seem to have caught up with other teams after playing a number of friendly matches.
They lost key players in Godknows Murwira, who left for FC Platinum, as well as Clive Agusto and goalkeeper Donovan Bernard, who joined potential title rivals Chicken Inn, but the Mhondoro-Ngezi side is happy with the set of players that they have.