Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE international defender Kevin Moyo has been ruled out of FC Platinum’s decisive leg of their Champions League preliminary round encounter against CNaPS Sport of Madagascar at Mandava this afternoon after failing to recover on time.
The Zvishavane miners are favourites to progress to the next stage of this tournament after they managed to restrict the Indian Ocean islanders to 1-1 stalemate in the reverse fixture in Antananarivo last week.
Pure Platinum Play have dominated the local scene in the past two seasons and on Sunday they completed a league and cup double after winning the Castle Challenge Cup for the second year running.
They not only became the first team to break decades of waiting for a team from outside of Harare and Bulawayo to claim the championship, but have made it with back-to-back wins.
The hosts, who have also built their dominance locally on a solid defence, will have their work cut out without the services of reliable central defender Moyo.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza, however, insisted that his men would soldier on without their Warriors defender.
Mapeza said his side could also count on versatile former Tsholotsho captain William Sitima to step in at the heart of the hosts’ defence this afternoon.
“Kevin is out, after the game against Triangle we thought he had some cramps, but it was only later when we discovered that he has a problem with his knee, so it means he will be out for about two weeks or so, if his problem continues he might need a surgery.
“I am not taking anything away from Kevin, he has been the pillar of our defence for so many years, but look, every time we have some changes into the squad, a player who comes in usually does well. If you look at what William has been doing in the absence of Kevin, I think let us give credit to William as well.
“I think he has done remarkably well for us and definitely he will play tomorrow in place of Kevin,” Mapeza said.
Newboy Lameck Nhamo started training with FC Platinum on Monday and with the Zimbabwe kings seeking to add fire-power in attack, Mapeza is likely to be tempted to throw in the bustling striker right away. Nhamo has been one of the major reasons why his immediate past team Triangle are Chibuku Super Cup winners and finished fourth on the Premiership standings. Mapeza could, however not be drawn into revealing his decision on his latest acquisition, whom he might be tempted to partner with Rodwell Chinyengetere, if indications from the FC Platinum camp are anything to go by. Chinyengetere ended this year as the season’s top goal scorer with 17 goals, followed by Nhamo, who led Triangle United’s attack
“We just have to make a decision as the technical team, he has been here training with us from Monday he trained again today (Tuesday). Chances are 50-50 that he might play or might not play. Like I said, we just have to make a decision as a technical team, but he has been training very well with us. If we feel he might give us something, he will play a part,” Mapeza said.
Amid the tough conditions of Antananarivo, Mapeza opted for safety first, with his defence impressing the coach for their industry and tactical discipline.
The former Warrior coach will hope for same today from his rearguard, while Premiership top goal scorer Chinyengerete should be able to find his range in familiar territory.
“After we drew with them in Madagascar, I think the game will be an open match, but we just have to be cautious because you are aware that if we get a draw or a win we will get through to the next stage. After posting a positive result in Madagascar, we just need to wrap up the game tomorrow,” Mapeza said.
CNaPS, who arrived in Bulawayo on Tuesday afternoon, are not strangers to Zimbabwe as they have been in the country on a similar mission.
In 2011, the now defunct Motor Action knocked the Indian Ocean Islanders out at the first hurdle. The Mighty Bulls had lost the first leg in Harare 1-0 and went on to win by an identical margin in Antananarivo, setting the stage for a penalty shoot-out lottery which Motor Action won 4-3.
Although FC Platinum are favourites to run over the Malagasy outfit, CNaPS coach Patrick Andriambololona remains confident they are still in with a big shout.
“It is not yet over, they scored a goal here (Madagascar) and we can also do the same at their home ground, yes they are a good team but we have a chance.
“We could have won the game, here but we missed a number of chances, now we need to continue creating those chances away from home and hope we can utilise them. The game is not yet over,” Andriambololona said.
Gritty midfielder Farai Madhanhanga, who scored the crucial away goal, also refused to believe that the contest is over and urged his teammates to remain focused as they look to see off the visitors.
The 23-year-old former Harare City man, one of the stand-out players for the Premiership and Castle Challenge Cup champions said despite completing a dominant season, FC Platinum needed to remain grounded.
“We started the competition very well, so we just need to continue working hard to have a chance of progressing further in the Champions League. We need to be very alert in these games, a simple mistake you are punished, so we just need to be alert and avoid making mistakes. At this level of the game it is about fine margins and unnecessary mistakes need to be avoided.
Playing for the national team and also in the Confederation Cup before has taught me that football is just the same, either playing at home or abroad,” he said.
“Mandava is our home ground and I see us winning in the return leg, but above all we just need to work hard, CNaPS is a good side with the potential of upsetting anyone, so we just need to work very hard,” said Madhanhanga.
Probable FC Platinum line-up:
Petros Mhari, Raphael Mudhuviwa, Gift Bello, William Sitima, Elvis Moyo, Kelvin Madzongwe, Devon Chafa, Farai Madhanhanga, Gift Mbweti, Lameck Nhamo, Rodwell Chinyengetere