BY TERRY MADYAUTA/MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Miracles do happen, big and small.
Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum are in desperate need of victory on Tuesday to salvage their slim chances of progressing beyond the CAF Champions League group stage as they face Horoya AC at Stade du 28 September in Conakry, Guinea.
A miracle because Horoya proved their mettle already beating the platinum miners by a solitary Malian international Marius Hamed Assoko strike at Barbourfields Stadium last weekend.
Only last season, the Guinean champions reached the quarterfinals of the continental competition.
Interestingly, reigning African champions Esperance, staring defeat in the face last month, needed a last-gasp Anice Badri equaliser in the opening group stages at Horoya last month.
Anchoring the Group B standings with a single point in three starts, Pure Platinum Play simply need to win all their remaining fixtures to reach the quarterfinals.
Even coach Norman Mapeza sounds like he has already thrown in the towel in as far as reaching the knockout stages is concerned.
He suggests that the primary objective is to learn more about the competition at this stage of the African Safari.
“Mathematically, you might say that we are out of the running for the quarter-finals, but like I said, for us it is about experience,” Mapeza said.
“This is our first time to play in the Champions League group stages; we just have to keep on working hard and see what happens in our remaining matches.
“For me as a coach and the players, it is a good experience. We just have to continue working hard and see what happens in our next matches.”
Coached by Frenchman Patrice Neveu, Horoya have their own ambitions that include reaching the quarter-finals in a group that includes Esperance and South African giants Orlando Pirates.
Horoya are obviously looking beyond FC Platinum, who seem to be the lightweights in the group.
“It’s time for us now to think about the other games. It is essential that we fight, firstly, to go to the quarter-finals like last year, then think of going further in the African campaign. I thank all the fans and supporters of Horoya AC, the people of Guinea and my countrymen,” scorer of last week’s winning goal Assoko told the club’s website.
In the group, Pirates and Esperance are tied on five points, while Horoya have four and FC Platinum have one.
FC Platinum’s Achilles heel has been the strike force where the team has continued to fire blanks.
The Zvishavane-based side is yet to score a goal in the group stages and have gone 360 minutes without finding the target in the competition.
And it’s one area that the coach has been working on for the past week.
In the match against Orlando Pirates, Mapeza used veteran striker Mkhokheli Dube in attack and later introduced Gift Mbweti, while Ramson Pavari joined Dube upfront against Esperance.
Last week Mbweti and Charles Sibanda had their opportunity to fire blanks and one wonders whom the coach is going to summon upfront to deliver the miracle goal(s) to beat Horoya.
Another defeat on Tuesday will render FC Platinum’s participation in the competition only of academic interest going forward.
The Zimbabwean side is still to play Pirates away and Esperance at home.