ECOND half substitute Oscar Bhebhe put up a sterling performance to lift FC Platinum as they beat Manica Diamonds 2-0 at Mandava stadium yesterday to stretch their lead at the top of the log to nine points.
Bhebhe rose from the bench and injected firepower into FC Platinum's forward-line and he scored their insurance goal as they opened a nine-point lead ahead of Dynamos who face Harare City this afternoon.
An own goal by Nyasha Chintuli had given FC Platinum the lead, with the result leaving coach Norman Mapeza on cloud nine.
"This was a tough match but I'm happy we won. We missed a lot of chances in the first half," Mapeza said.
"The substitutions proved to be vital for us in the final third of the game. Oscar Bhebhe did well because he gave us width after we pulled out Thandolwenkosi (Ngwenya).
"That substitution was all we needed to win. I am happy and satisfied with this result but I must admit that the games are getting tougher."
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His counterpart Johannes Nhumwa was frustrated by the outcome.
"We missed chances, we failed at every turn to get the goals. Our game plan had worked, but we failed. The game is simple, score when you get the chance," Nhumwa fumed.
While the match began on a high note, Manica Diamonds were rather slow to move out of their blocks.
They congested the midfield with the aim of nullifying FC Platinum attacks that usually start from the back.
Their plan worked out in the first stanza where they thwarted the defending champions at every turn.
Ngwenya got FC Platinum's first attempt at goal after seven minutes but his effort was tame before they failed to capitalise on a goalmouth melee 10 minutes later.
Ngwenya was in the spotlight again just after the half hour when he hit the side netting with a sizzling shot from an acute angle.
A minute later the 19-year-old was set up by Juan Mutudza in a good position but without any pressure, his shot went over the crossbar.
Manica Diamonds maintained their script in the second half, but Mapeza tinkered with his team to introduce Bhebhe who livened up his team's forward-line.
The platinum miners finally unlocked Manica Diamonds on their 73rd minute when Nyasha Chintuli miscued the ball into his own net in an attempt to clear Walter Musona's low shot.
They could have doubled their scores five minutes from time when Bhebhe broke loose, with goalie Muchambo at his mercy but a rather suicidal interception from Brian Chikwenya was all Manica Diamonds needed to deny the platinum miners.
FC Platinum sealed the game in the referees additional time when the in-form Bhebhe pounced a rebound from a Panashe Mutimbanyoka strike to beat Muchambo from close range.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League results and fixtures
Today: Tenax v ZPC Kariba (Vengere), Bulawayo Chiefs v Black Rhinos (Luveve), Triangle v Bulawayo City (Gibbo), Dynamos v Harare City (National Sports Stadium).
Yesterday: Cranborne Bullets 3-1 Whawha, Chicken Inn 1-2 Ngezi Platinum, Caps United 1-1 Herentals, FC Platinum 2-0 Manica Diamonds
Friday: Yadah 2-3 Highlanders