ZIMBABWE’S representatives in the CAF Champions league FC Platinum finally rediscovered their goal scoring form as they played out to 2-2 draw against Orlando Pirates in a thrilling Group B tie played at Orlando stadium yesterday.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
Unlike their opponents, the Zimbabwean champions went into this encounter knowing they had no chance of making it into the quarter-finals of the competition but for them the clash was a mission to restore lost pride.
The miners dominated the early exchanges with their catchy and free-flowing football and with 18 minutes played the visitors were awarded a penalty after Orlando Pirates defender Bulelani Ndegane was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty box.
Never Tigere however failed to convert from the spotkick as ,Pirates goalie Wayne Sandilands palmed his effort back into play before gathering the second attempt on the rebound from Ali Sadiki.
Nine minutes later Tigere made up for his mistake as he powered the Zimbabwean Champions into the lead for the first time in the group stages with a low shot from close range.
The Zvishavane miners continued to run rings over the Soweto giants, as newboy Perfect Chikwende doubled the lead on the 36 minute mark.
Chikwende marked his debut with an impressive performance, and on that occasion, the speedy forward got to the end of a defence spliting pass from Sadiki before calmly slotting the ball home with goalie, Sandilands, rooted at one spot.
The hosts then turned on their screws as full time loomed and the miners failed to see off the intense surge from Pirates, who struggled in the final third for most of the game.
Thembinkosi Lorch pulled one back for Pirates on the 81 minute mark before Augustine Mulenga restored parity for Pirates with a powerful strike from close range six minutes later.
At one moment Mulenga crept down the left and after pulling a cut back, he unleashed a striker against the defence, who cleared for a corner.
Petros Mhari also why he was called up to the Warriors squad as he made crucial saves throughout the game and at one moment denying efforts by Lorch and Mulenga in quick succession.
Defensive stalwart Kelvin Moyo was sent off by Gabonese referee Eric Arnaud on the stroke of full-time after pulling down a chargaing Gabuza just outside the penalty box.
And even with a few moments to go it was unbearably tense, as Pirates fired from all cylinders insearch of a win, however FC Platinum held on u
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza heaped praise on his charges for a spirited performance.
” I have to admit, the boys played. They really gave their all in this encounter and credit must go to them.
“We never played under flood lights back home but this shows that we are good and we shall remain focused as we not prepare for other assignments in future.
“We cannot take away the fact that we are already out but this performances is an indication that there are brighter days ahead of us,” said Mapeza.
Neither sides made changes from the bench following the resumption of the second half, with FC Platinum ontinuing their menacing act in attack.
Pirates gaffer Milutin Sredojevic later shuffled his stall from the bench, a Augustine Mulenga andThamsanqa Gabuza made an entry, showing Pirates’s attacking intents.
Pirates gaffer Milutin Sredojevic was rather reserved in his comments as he conceeding that his team lacked composure for the better part of the game.
” In the last games, FC Platinum have just been outscored not outplayed and today they proved their worth.
” We have not been ourselves especially in the first half. We conceeded goals when we least expecte. Our opponents were more organized than us but I am glad that we managed to comeback into the game.
“I was hoping for a win but we got a point and that means we will have to win the next game against Horoya so that we qualify to the quarter finals,” he said.
Only Esperence has qualified to the next stage with FC Platinum already out as they have 2 points on their tally with one game to play.
The battle is now between Orlando Pirates and Horoya who are separated by one point.
Pirates have 6 points and desperately need to beat Horoya if they are to progress while the former need a draw to qualify.
ORLANDO PIRATES:W Sandilands, H Jele, C Silva, K Mahachi,V Pule, A Memela, M Nyatama( A Mulenga 63), X Mlambo( O Mntambo 67), B Ndengane, S Maela.
FC PLATINUM: P Mhari, K Moyo, E Moyo, G Bello, R Muduviwa, K Madzongwe, L Chikwende( F Madhanhanga 81), A Sadiki( W Stima, 85), R Kutsanzira, N Tigere( D Chafa, 90), R Pavari.