BY HENRY MHARA
FC PLATINUM coach Norman Mapeza says his club could be forced to look for strikers after his forwards yet again fired blanks in the team’s Caf Champions League Group B away match against Horoya in Conakry, Guinea, on Tuesday evening.
The Zvishavane side, which subsequently crashed out of the competition, needed to win, or at least get a point to keep hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition.
But second half goals from Ocansey Mandela and Yakubu Hudu meant that the Guinea champions completed a double over the Zimbabwean champions, who bowed out of the campaign with two rounds of matches remaining in the group.
With the defeat, the Mapeza-coached side remains rooted at the bottom of the group with only a point, ahead of their remaining matches at home to defending champions ES Tunis of Tunisia and away to Orlando Pirates.
Horoya moved to second position with seven points, one behind ES Tunis, who beat Orlando Pirates 2-0 also on Tuesday, with the South African giants plummeting from the top of the table to third.
After the match, Mapeza took time to reflect on what has been a disappointing campaign so far, whose major undoing has been the inability of his strikers to find the back of the net.
For all their efficiency on the local front, the FC Platinum strikers have been blunt at continental level, where they have failed to score a single goal in four group matches.
“We have a challenge. Of course, we are not scoring goals, but we have to keep working hard. It’s a challenge, where it gives us something going forward. If it means looking for some top quality strikers, we need to do that before we kick off our local league at home,” Mapeza said.
Often relying on Rodwell Chinyengetere’s goals, the team has struggled ever since the Soccer Star of the Year left for Baroka FC in South Africa, with the striking trio of veteran Mkhokeli Dube, Albeit Aonde and Gift Mbweti dismally failing to provide any spark.
“I can’t say which department let me down because all these guys worked so hard. They are trying, and everybody is putting everything into the game, but we cannot expect to score from open play only. We can also score from set pieces and so those are areas we also need to work on. We need to work more on converting our set pieces and like I always say it’s creativity at the end of the day.”
Unlike in the 1-0 defeat against Horoya in the reverse fixture, FC Platinum were the better side in this one, knocking the ball well, but failing to put away the numerous chances they created at the Stade du 28 Septembre.
They were made to rue the missed opportunities when Ocancey headed his side in front from a corner kick, before Yakubu beat goalkeeper Petros Mhari on his near post for the killer second goal.
“The guys did very well. It’s unfortunate that they conceded those two goals, which we could have avoided. The first one was a set piece, and in that situation, it’s about organisation, communication and concentration, but I don’t know how they failed to execute. I really don’t know what really transpired, but it’s always very painful to concede from a set piece because it gives you time to get organised,” Mapeza bemoaned.
“Then the second goal was on the near post and again I don’t know what happened. Those two goals could have been avoided, but overall, it’s one of our best ever games since we started this Champions League group stages campaign. We had some few decent chances, and we could have got something from our set pieces as well. This is a learning curve and I think we are moving in the right direction.
FC Platinum’s next match is away to Orlando Pirates on March 8, before hosting ES Tunis a week later to conclude their group stage campaign — two matches of little significance to Mapeza’s side.
“It will be good to go out of the tournament with two wins under our belt. We really want to win our matches because we always go out there to try and win, but if results don’t go our way, we will have to sit down and reflect,” the FC Platinum mentor said.
“We just need to keep working hard and try by all means to get results in those last two matches. We have to keep believing, and win. That is what we want.”