ATTACKING midfielder Perfect Chikwende turned on the show with a beautiful strike that gave FC Platinum a narrow win over Tanzania’s Simba S.C. in the first leg of the Caf Champions League first round tie at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The Zimbabweans, who were coming from a difficult background of inactivity this year, turned up with a composed game-plan which helped them contain the 2018-19 quarter-finalists after getting the early goal.
Chikwende, who scored the second goal when the Zimbabwean champions disposed of Mozambican outfit Costa do Sol in the preliminary round, continued with his fine form when he put the platinum miners ahead after 17 minutes.
The diminutive midfielder yesterday burst into a run on the right flank, beating his markers in the wake before unleashing a powerful right-footer that gave the visitors’ goalkeeper Aishi Manula no chance at all as it went in through the bottom corner of the goal.
The win gives FC Platinum the advantage ahead of the return leg set for January 6 at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Winners after the two-legged encounter will proceed to the group stage.
Norman Mapeza’s game-plan appears to have worked well for the platinum miners who did well not to concede at home despite the threat posed by the visitors. Simba looked dangerous with their attacks but they could not break clear at goal. They even missed two great opportunities towards the end of the game, which could have complicated the day for the hosts.
FC Platinum goalkeeper and skipper Petros Mhari came up with some important saves in the match and also did a great job organising his defence.
The platinum miners to their credit fought for every ball and were deserved winners despite not having played competitive football for nearly a year, before engaging in the preliminary round against Costa do Sol and emerging 4-1 aggregate victors.
Mapeza was forced to rethink his starting line-up following the injury to Silas Songani who missed the action yesterday. Another key midfielder Ralph Kawondera, who was not 100 percent fit, was also forced to start from the bench.
Hardworking FC Platinum midfielder Brian Banda had his shot tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Manula soon after the restart but the hosts failed to make good use of the resultant corner.
Chikwende had a brilliant opportunity to register a brace when he slipped past his markers to come face-to-face with the keeper but Manula this time used his frame to block the shot.
Fitness issues were always manifesting in the FC Platinum side and Mapeza had no choice but to replace striker Stanley Ngala at the hour mark after the forward came worse off in a tussle with a Simba player.
But Simba showed that they are not a small side. The 21-time Tanzanian champions also missed the services of their danger man John Bocco who failed to recover on time for the match and was replaced by Ugandan Middie Kagere.
Simba evaded the off-side trap after 68 minutes but Mhari managed to have his hand on a rising shot by substitute Larry Bwalya who had an exchange with Chris Mugalu.
The Tanzanians had the ball in the back of the nets with exactly 15 minutes remaining but the far side assistant referee had his flag up for off-side after Mugalu had strayed in the area unattended.
Simba had another glorious opportunity deep in injury-time when two of their players found themselves unmarked in the box but substitute Mugalu could not direct his header home.
FC Platinum: P Mhari, G. Mbweti, W. Stima (T. Chikore, 70th minute), G. Bello, L. Mhlanga, K. Madzongwe, R. Pavari, B. Banda, R. Kutsanzira (E. Illunga, 90th minute), P. Chikwende, S. Ngala (R. Kawondera, 60th minute)
Simba SC: A. Manula, S. Kapombwe, M. Hussein, J. Onyango, P. Wawa, J. Mkude, H. Dilunga (A. Miraji, 79th minute), E. Nyoni (Y. Mzamiru, 46th minute), M. Kagere (C. Mugalu, 46th minute), C. Chama, L. Miquissone (L. Bwalya, 66th minute)