BY FORTUNE MBELE in Bulawayo
FC Platinum… (0) 1
Esperance……. (1) 2
FC PLATINUM’S wastefulness in front goal once again proved costly after they lost to reigning African football champions Esperance Tunis at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday to finish their CAF Champions League group stages campaign without a win.
Esperance opened the scoring as early as the eighth minute with midfielder Mohamed Meskini unleashing a cracker from a long-range free-kick, which beat a bewildered FC Platinum goalkeeper Petros Mhari.
After several squandered chances in the first half, FC Platinum equalised in the 62nd minute through Ali Sadiki, who shielded the ball that had been saved by goalkeeper Moez Cherifa into the nets from a William Stima free-kick.
Sadiki appeared to have impeded on Cherifa, but Botswana referee Joshua Bondo let the goal count.
Esperance substitute Adem Rjaeibi scored the winner barely three minutes after stepping into the field of play with a stunning long-range effort from outside the penalty box to beat Mhari seven minutes before the final whistle.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza said the competition was a learning curve for his side.
“We have been improving with each outing. There is massive improvement, but we conceded soft goals in this match. It’s a learning curve for us,” Mapeza said.
“We failed to collect maximum points, but it was a good experience for me as a coach and the players,” Mapeza added.
Esperance, who have already qualified for the quarter-finals and are looking forward to another African title after winning the last tournament, brought a second-string side, with only three in-field substitute players and a goalkeeper, but finished Group B with four wins and two draws.
The team was under assistant coach Othman Najjar with the first team remaining behind in Tunisia.
“We thank God for the miraculous victory. We wanted to rest some of the players because of other commitments that we have,” Najjar said.
It was a dead rubber match, but FC Platinum had several chances wasted in the first half as they continued to pile pressure on the Tunisians, whose goalkeeper Cherifa had a splendid afternoon shutting out the hosts’ raids.
Just a minute after Meskini’s goal, the visitors conceded a corner-kick which was curled in by Rahman Kutsanzira and Elvis Moyo’s header was punched away by Cherifa.
Inside five minutes with FC Platinum all over Esperance, who, however, looked more composed than the hosts, Sadiki and Kutsanzira had their efforts denied by Cherifa.