By Muziwethu Hadebe
Images: Washington Sibanda
@Babourfields Stadium, Bulawayo.
FC Platinum 0-0 Orlando Pirates
Zimbabwe Soccer Champions FC Platinum picked a point in their first CAF Champions’ League group stages match against 1995 Champions( in this competition)South African side Orlando Pirates before a full house at this iconic venue.
With the 23000 tickets allocated for the match running out at half time, the Zvishavane based side could have taken the lead as early as the second minute while some fans were still making their way into the stadium and some still taking their seats when a William Stima free kick, a low one missed the upright.
Pirates who arrived in Bulawayo on Friday, after a mid-week match in the South African Premier Soccer League during the week responded seven minutes later when Zambian Justin Shonga forced FC Platinum captain and goalkeeper Petros Mhari to punch his goal bound effort away after the Zambian was allowed space in the box.
One of the most outstanding players for “Pure Platinum play” Kelvin Madzongwe forced a good save from Pirates Keeper Thabelo Jackson Mabokgwane in the 11th minute as the goal minder who often starts from the bench was alert to go down and push the long range effort for a corner.
The Buccaneers dominated the first half and created the most with the inform Thembinkosi Lorch coming with a clever lob in the 23rd minute as pirates capitalised on a good counter attack but the ball just went over the bar. Another Lorch grounder was punched away by Mhari a few minutes later.
Sakhile Maela who combined well with Kudakwashe Mahachi on the left saw his fine header in the 35th minute miss the target by a few inches.
It was however the fine low free kick at the near post by Shonga that was brilliantly pushed out for a corner kick by Mhari at the stroke of half time that kept the Zimbabwe champions in the game as the two Southern Africa teams headed to the break at nil-nil with FC Platinum forcing six corner kicks while the visitors had five.
Pirates reduced the tempo in the second half and FC Platinum created the most in this period creating five good scoring opportunities.
Madzongwe saw another of his long range efforts going over the bar as the former Bulawayo City player continued to control the midfield in the 61st minute.
Edwin Madhananga who had a quite game by his standards had his grounder going wide five minutes later, as Ali Sadiki’s clever shot was pushed for a corner two minutes later.
In the 79th minute Rahman Kutsanzira deliver a tricky shot outside the box after he was set up by veteran Mkhokeli Dube but the ball took a deflection for a corner with the Pirates keeper on the wrong side of the action. Substitute Gift Mbweti could have scored in the 80th minute but his high ball was scooped for a corner by the Pirates defence.
Despite a slow second half the South Africans had two chances falling for Mahachi in the 54th minute and best in the 74th minute when he could not pick his spot in the box.
Substitute Vincent Pule went down in the box under challenge from a Platinum defender eight minutes from time but the Rwandan referee Jean Claude Ishimwe, who handled the match very well and flashed one yellow card to Pirates captain Happy Jele waved play on. The two teams settled for a goalless draw as FC Platinum kept their third clean sheet at home in this completion. Both teams forced nine corner kicks each in this thrilling encounter despite the lack of goals.
Misho…..Pirates Coach– “It is always nice to come to a country and you are welcomed very well, it shows that our team is loved here and I would like to thank the fans for supporting us, we played against a good team and it was like a game of chess and they came up with set up that we had expected, we did not want to concede which we achieved but would have loved to score a goal, so it was a 50% performance from us”.
Happy Jele…….Pirates Captain-“We played against a good team and we did our homework as a team, we knew they were good, we came here knowing what to expect, we did well as a team but at times we need to be aggressive and score goals away from home but we will take the point, the atmosphere was very awesome and we love the fans who are here and this was a good sign that Orlando Pirates is loved in Africa and we just need to keep pushing for our fans”.
Norman Mapeza…….FC Platinum Coach– “I think it was a good game of football, I think the boys enjoyed the game, it was a good point and I am happy with the point, we are just enjoying this journey and we will continue working hard as we head to Tunisia on Tuesday and we will go there with a view to try and pick a point”.
Petros Mhari……….FC Platinum Captain– “We are happy with our performance, as the goalkeeper it is my duty to make such saves but we played as a team”.
FC PLATINUM Petros Mhari, Raphael Muduviva, Elvis Moyo, William Stima, Gift Bello, Kelvin Madzongwe, Devon Chafa, Edwin Mahananga, Rahman Kutsanzira, Ali Sadiki(Gift Mbweti 76’) and Mkhokheli Dube(Lameck Nhamo 85’).
ORLANDO PIRATES Thabelo Mabokgwane, Thembinkosi , Happy Jele, Marshall Munetsi, Asavela Mbekile, Bulelani Ndengane, Xola Mlambo(Onassis Mntambo 86’), Sakhile Maela, Kudakwashi Mahachi(Vincent Pule 74’), Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga(Agustine Mulenga 65’).
Outstanding– Petros Mhari and Kelvin Madzongwe(FC Platinum); Xola Mlambo and Thembinkosi Lorch