BY FORTUNE MBELE in Bulawayo
FC Platinum……………… (2) 3
Nyasa Big Bullets……… (1) 2
(FC Platinum win 3-2 on goal aggregate)
Perfect Chikwende rose from the bench to execute a beautiful header which ensured FC Platinum progressed to the first round of the CAF Champions League after getting the better of Malawian side Nyasa Big Bullets in a five-goal thriller at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
Although the hosts, who finished the match with 10 men after Albert Eonde was shown the red card in the 26th minute, defended for the better part of the game, the Malawian side came back from behind twice and seemed to be headed for the next stage of the tournament on the away goals rule.
Eonde saw red from Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe after a lunge on Precious Sambani, who was a menace on the left wing.
However, FC Platinum did not lose hope with coach Norman Mapeza showing his intent by bringing in strikers Charles Sibanda and Chikwende for Guyve Nsiala and first goal scorer Devon Chafa.
And Chikwende’s perfect header 10 minutes before the final whistle deflated coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s determined boys.
Chafa converted from the spot four minutes into the match after Gift Mbweti was brought down inside the penalty box.
Nyasa equalised on the half-hour mark through a harmless-looking ball from the left flank by Peter Banda, which eluded goalkeeper Wallace Magalane.
FC Platinum struck again in the 37th minute, with Never Tigere pouncing on a loose ball following a through pass from the centre before unleashing a shot past an advancing goalkeeper Ernest Kauhobwe going to the breather in the lead.
But Nyasa Big Bullets would not give up, piling pressure on FC Platinum and were rewarded in the 73rd minute through a well-executed effort by Patrick Phiri after a gaffe in central defence.
And then came in Chikwende and made the difference, much to Mapeza’s excitement and FC Platinum fans who thronged BF.
“This is not tennis. It’s a game of football. It’s a collective effort. The boys upped their game when we were a man down. We had to gamble and take out Devon and introduce a striker,” Mapeza said.
The FC PLatinum coach, who is looking forward to the next round, said his boys defended well except for the blunder that cost them one of the goals.
“We were good defensively, save for the mistake that resulted in one of the goals. It’s always difficult for the coach and the players when you play against 11 men and you are a man down,” he said.
Pasuwa said his boys played well considering it’s a young side after he disbanded a team of senior players last year.
“At this stage, we need maturity. We have young players and they are learning, but coming here and scoring goals means a lot. It was in defence where we were making mistakes and we were punished,” Pasuwa said.
“We were chasing the ball most of the time instead of playing it into spaces. We played a good team and I thought that penalty was a soft one, but we can’t complain about officiating, we had our chances and failed to convert them.”
A last-minute scare came in optional time for FC Platinum when substitute Chiukepo Msowaya hit the cross bar with Magalane a beaten man.
FC Platinum: W Magalane, R Muduviwa, W Stima, K Madzongwe, G Bello, D Chafa (Perfect Chikwende 78’), G Mbweti, R Pavari, A Eonde (red card 26’), N Tigere, G Nsiala (C Sibanda 66’).
Nyasa Big Bullets: E Kauhobwe, C Kaira, N Nyasulu, Y Fodya (C Msowoya 46’), G Chirwa (D Zonda 46’), P Sambani, C Idana, P Banda, P Phiri, B Munthali, C Petro.