BY FORTUNE MBELE IN BULAWAYO
FC Platinum… (2) 2
Violence marred the Castle Challenge Cup as former Bosso coach Hendrikus Pieter de Jongh (pictured right) made a triumphant return to Barbourfields Stadium after guiding champions FC Platinum to a convincing win over Highlanders to retain the season-opening trophy yesterday.
The match, however, provided yet another bad advertisement for local football as ugly scenes threatened to bring the encounter to a premature end.
Crowd trouble started in the second half when Highlanders fans from the Soweto End threw missiles onto the pitch after defender Andrew Mbeba was shown the yellow card by referee Arnold Ncube.
The skirmishes degenerated into chaos in optional time when FC Platinum fans, who were seated in the Mpilo End, invaded the pitch apparently fleeing attacks from irate Bosso hooligans.
There were also clashes in the Soweto End as Bosso fans fought running battles with the police destroying the perimeter fence, leading to another stoppage as police made reinforcements.
The police reinforcements, however, did nothing to quell the violence as the fans from the
Soweto End continued to attack the police, pelting them with missiles, forcing the law enforcement agents to retreat.
Highlanders executive committee members and marshals pleaded with the fans in an effort to calm the tempers while a mounted police guard was also called into the stadium to control the situation.
The players only returned to the field of play after a 30-minute stoppage and the match resumed before the referee blew to end the game with just under a minute’s play.
The violence marred an otherwise entertaining encounter as forward Silas Songani announced his return to local football with a bang after his first-half brace ensured champions FC Platinum retained the Castle Challenge Cup.
It was also a memorable return for De Jongh, who led Bosso to the Chibuku Super Cup title last season before leaving the club to join FC Platinum.
The two expatriate coaches refused to comment on the violence, instead choosing to focus on the match.
De Jongh was elated with the performance of his players.
“We showed them [Highlanders] how football is played. We played very well starting aggressively. We played high-pressure football, created a lot of chances.
Highlanders had no answer to how we played. I am happy, this is how football is played,” De Jongh said.
His counterpart Mark Harrison reckons he has a lot of work to do after watching his side put up a poor show in the first half.
“The game was won and lost in the first half. We did not turn up today. All the work we have been doing in pre-season the players were looking good, but today they did not show up. We have got a lot of things to do to make things happen,” Harrison said.
FC Platinum were solid and played purposefully right from the outset as they moved the ball around with confidence as Highlanders looked clueless, lacking any coordination.
The platinum miners could have scored in the 15th minute after a blunder by defensive linkman Nqobizitha Masuku, letting Perfect Chikwende loose before he exchanged passes with Stanley Ngala, whose screamer was punched away for a corner-kick.
Songani’s first goal came in the 19th minute after Chikwende was brought down on the edge of the penalty box on the left.
The former Warriors forward curled a beauty to the far right beating Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda and his defenders all systems out.
Chikwende made a perfect solo run in the 36th minute from his own half on the left before he spotted Songani, who made no mistake and shot past Sibanda with aplomb.
The second half did not produce much with the only spectacle being the rowdy fans that delayed the progress of the game.
The disturbing scenes come at a time when Barbourfields Stadium has been under refurbishment in an attempt to meet standards to host CAF and Fifa matches and on Friday CAF inspectors were at the facility, assessing the stadium ahead of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers due in October.
FC Platinum: P Mhari, G Mbweti, G Bello, L Mhlanga, T Chikore, K Madzongwe, R Kawondera, S Songani (N Chinyerere 90+4’), P Chikwende, R Kutsanzira (D Khumalo 59’)
Highlanders: A Sibanda, C Siamalonga, M Ndlovu, A Mbeba, P Muduhwa, N Masuku, M Katsvairo (R Lunga 73’), B Banda, M Dube (T Makanda 58’), D Mhindirira, P Dube.