BY Kevin Mapasure
Despite carrying a first leg handicap, Tanzanian side Simba SC are confident of eliminating Zimbabwe’s representative FC Platinum from the Caf Champions League.
The two teams square off in the second leg final qualifier for the mini-league phase with FC Platinum having won the first leg 1-0 in Harare, but Simba are banking on their expected 30 000 fans at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium today to propel them past the Zimbabwean miners.
The Tanzanians have actually made a request to Caf for them to be allowed to fill up the stadium to its 60 000 capacity.
The home side is so confident of victory they are already looking at the prospect of signing FC Platinum’s Perfect Chikwende, scorer of the first leg goal, ahead of the group stages.
Goalkeeper Aishi Manula is confident they will progress to the next stage of the Caf Champions League at the expense of FC Platinum.
In the first meeting between the two sides, the platinum miners picked up a vital win after Chikwende scored the all-important goal in the 17th minute to give his side a slight advantage at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
“I know everyone knows we are trailing 1-0 so far, but obviously we still have a great chance of qualifying for the group stage by making sure we win our rematch which we will play at home here in Dar es Salaam,” Manula told alocal media.
“I believe the good results in our last two games have boosted our morale to win the game, and through the support of our fans and football stakeholders in the country we will qualify and go to the group stage.”
Coach Sven Vandenbroeck said he was gutted by the away game loss, but remained confident they could still turn the tables in the return leg meeting.
He does not see FC Platinum as a threat and only rues mistakes made in the first leg which he said influenced the first leg result.
“We are in a good position to win the second leg because our opponents are not a threat. We did not lose the first away match because of their prowess, but we lost because of our mistakes.
“I’m not happy with the result because we didn’t deserve to lose, we dominated the game especially in the first half but we didn’t have focus while attacking,” Vandenbroeck told the club’s social media pages after the game.
“They managed to score and now we have to be careful when we meet in the return leg.”
He has since coined the clash “War in Dar”.
Simba’s confidence seems to have riled FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza, who decided to launch his own attack.
“Remember, they drew here against UD Songo and went out of the tournament, so we can get a result as well. They are not unbeatable. If UD Songo can come here and get a result, what can stop us? In football anything is possible, there is no team that is not beatable, Barcelona is beatable, Manchester City is beatable, all the top clubs in the world are beatable, so it’s football at the end of the day,” Mapeza said.
Caf allows teams to fill just half of the stadium, but Simba want a full house.
“If they give us the greenlight, we will overflow the venue so as to give our players on the battlefield the support they deserve,” information officer Haji Manara said.
FC Platinum did themselves a huge favour by keeping a clean sheet at home and they know that the longer they go without conceding today, the more openings for them upfront.
They will be looking to be at their solid best and upfront, they know the Simba defenders have it all coming against Chikwende, while the return of Silas Songani has given Mapeza’s side better attacking impetus.
Songani missed the last match due to injury, but he was included in the 23-man squad that travelled to Tanzania.
FC Platinum squad
Petros Mhari, Rahman Kutsanzira, Nomore Chinyerere, Perfect Chikwende, Rainsome Pavari, Donald Dzvinyai, Kelvin Madzongwe, Raphael Muduviwa, Tawana Chikore, Future Sibanda, Denzel Khumalo, William Stima, Gift Bello, Francis Tizayi, Elie Ilunga, Gift Mbweti, Elias Maguri, Silas Songani, Kelvin Mangiza, Lawrence Mhlanga, Ralph Kawondera, Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Evidence Tendayi