The Sunday Mail
Costa do Sol…………..0
ZIMBABWE soccer kings FC Platinum took another step towards a fourth consecutive appearance in the CAF Champions League group stage when they completed a double over Costa do Sol of Mozambique in a preliminary round second leg match at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
Pure Platinum Play went into the match carrying a 2-1 lead they secured in Maputo last weekend and left it until late to guarantee their safe passage before an empty stadium yesterday.
William Stima and Perfect Chikwende were on target for FC Platinum, who now meet Tanzanian giants Simba in the first round in a fortnight.
The winner between the two will qualify for the group stage of Africa’s premier inter-club competition.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza went into the match with a clear plan.
He knew the visitors would come guns blazing in search of goals and predicted the Mozambicans would subsequently tire, especially towards the end, and “the plan was to contain Costa do Sol, before hitting them in the latter stages of the game’’.
After repelling Costa do Sol’s onslaught in the first stanza, Mapeza made a double substitution at the start of the second-half, bringing in Stanley Ngala for Elie Ilunga and Donald Dzvinyai for Silas Songani.
The introduction of Dzvinyai, a steady defender signed from Triangle at the beginning of the year, allowed Gift Mbweti to push further up the right wing and the move opened up space for FC Platinum in the opponent’s half.
And the crucial goal, which calmed the nerves for an evidently rusty FC Platinum, came in the 80th minute, courtesy of Stima.
The former Tsholotsho star player rattled home a free-kick from just outside the box after Zambian referee, Kasokota Kafuli Derrick, blew the whistle for a high boot on Chikwende.
Chikwende, whose omission from the Warriors’ provisional CHAN squad has been one of the key talking points, then put the icing on the cake in added time, finishing off a neat one-two with the impressive Brian Banda.
Costa do Sol had a genuine shout for a penalty in the fourth minute when Gift Bello handled under pressure, but the referee completely missed it.
The Zambian referee appeared to make amends in the 56th minute when Ngala was clearly brought down in the box and waved play on.
FC Platinum ’keeper Petros Mhari came to the rescue on a number of occasions, including a fine save from close range in the 84th minute, to deny the marauding Isac Declarvalho.
In the end, it was the emerging local football giant which conquered again.
It was FC Platinum’s eighth win in 28 CAF Champions League matches since 2012, when they made their debut with a preliminary round win over Green Mamba of Eswatini.
They have gone on to qualify for the group stage on three occasions and are now on the cusp of a fourth consecutive appearance in the lucrative Champions League phase.
FC Platinum will play Simba of Tanzania in the first round to decide which team qualifies for the mini-league stage.
The first leg will be played on December 22 and the return match on January 5, 2021.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic, who was in the company of team manager Wellington Mpandare, watched the match as he looks to get his home-based troops ready for the CHAN tournament which begins in Cameroon on January 16.
FC Platinum will be hoping to get even sharper as the tournament progresses given that they had been inactive all-year until last week when they visited Mozambique.
FC Platinum: P Mhari, P. Chikwende, K. Madzongwe, B. Banda, W. Stima, G. Bello, S. Songani (D. Dzvinyai 46th), Elie Ilunga (S. Ngala 46th), G. Mbweti, T. Chikore
Costa do Sol: V. Guambe, I. Decarvalho, N. Divrassone, J. Francisco Cassimiro, A. Jose Jonasse, S. Mondlane, F. Miocha, D. Muze, F. Joao Jone, S. Ernesto (H. Mario Capena 59th), N. Ernesto (C. Omar 70th)