Clash of the Titans at Mandava
Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza has demanded maximum concentration from his charges when the defending champions host giants Dynamos in a blockbuster Castle Lager Premiership football match at Mandava this afternoon.
The platinum miners, who suffered a disappointing defeat at Bulawayo Chiefs last weekend, are keen to bounce back in a big way.
Kick-off has been brought forward to 1pm. Mapeza, who has been involved in several battles against the Harare giants, was apprehensive ahead of the clash.
“It’s a massive game for us as a club. As you know Dynamos, they are who they are; a massive club in the country and we have so much respect for them.
“They have got a rich history in Zimbabwean football but at the end of the day it’s a game of football. If you look at our past records, I think they have been the dominant side but this is a different ball game altogether now, a new season,” said Mapeza.
The last time the teams met was in the Chibuku Super Cup semi-finals when the platinum miners swept to a 1-0 victory at Baobab, on their way to winning the title.
However, the man who scored the priceless goal in extra-time that afternoon, Innocent Mucheneka, will not be available this afternoon through injury. Defender Lawrence Mhlanga has also been ruled out because of a knock.
Both teams experienced massive player movements during the current transfer window with former Dynamos midfielder Juan Mutudza moving to Zvishavane while Ralph Kawondera moved the opposite direction.
FC Platinum have shipped out several players who included ‘’old war-horses’’ like Silas Songani, Stanley Ngala, Rahman Kutsanzira, Kelvin Madzongwe, Donald Ngoma, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Denzel Khumalo, Donald Dzvinyai and Ralph Kawondera, in a surprise mass exodus.
They still managed to retain the bulk of the players that featured in the Chibuku Super Cup triumph and have an exciting mix led by skipper Petros Mhari.
FC Platinum now feature young players who include the likes of Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Oscar Bhebhe, Kelvin Mangiza, Thando Ngwenya, Hagiazo Magaya and Nigerian Abubakar Onifadeh.
Mapeza also retained experienced players like Gift Mbweti, Rainsome Pavari, Donald Teguru while Walter Musona returned from South Africa and could play his second match today. Mapeza is keen to see a turnaround from the team’s performance in the last game, where they still dispute the manner in which they lost to Bulawayo Chiefs.
“I wasn’t really disappointed that we lost to Chiefs because of circumstances which were beyond our control.
“But I was happy with our performance and with four-five games to come I think everybody will be in good condition to perform better.
“There were some situations where I think we did very well against Chiefs but also there were some moments that I think we could have done better in terms of our defending.
“We conceded two goals in the first half in the space of 15 minutes and then in the second half it happened again. So tomorrow (today) it’s all about maximum concentration because if we are going to concede early it will be difficult for us,” said Mapeza.
Dynamos had a bye when the league games resumed last week. This will be the first competitive game for the Glamour Boys in exactly two months since they last played a league match against Cranborne Bullets, on December 19 last year, before the league was suspended for the festive holidays and the recent AFCON tournament held in Cameroon.
Dynamos have made eight signings this window after taking on board ex-FC Platinum man Kawondera, Keith Murera, Brandon Mpofu, Evans Katema, Issa Sadiki as well as three foreigners that include two Ghanaians, Emmanuel Paga and Martin Ofori; and Nigerian Alex Orotomal.
Their coach Tonderai Ndiraya believes the new signings will improve their goal scoring after scrapping identical 1-0 wins over Yadah and Bullets and losing by the same margin to Triangle in their first three matches of the new season.
“I can safely say that we have done good business during this transfer window and we now have a team which can fight for honours.
“The quality that we have added has really improved our teams and with more games we expect an improved performance in all departments. Our biggest strength last term was the defence.
“But we were a bit concerned about our goalkeeping department which we continue to bolster and then of course the offensive department. We didn’t have many goal scorers.
“If you look at our charts our top striker was Albert Eonde with two goals. I think (midfielder) Shadreck Nyahwa had more goals than our strikers.
“That really pushed us to go into the market and look for strikers who can score for the team. I believe those we have brought in can do the job but recruiting is one thing, then training them and playing is another. So we are hoping for the best,” said Ndiraya.
Dynamos fans have been mobilising transport to travel to Mandava to give their team the extra push.
Fans will part with US$5 for the rest of the ground and US$10 to sit in the VIP section. A limited number of supporters will be let in the stadium under the current Covid-19 prevention regime.
All the health protocols related to the pandemic will be fully adhered to and supporters are encouraged to carry their vaccination and national identity cards to be allowed entry.
“We had wanted to hire two buses but because of the changes in kick-off time and other issues related to Covid-19, we are looking at working with around 80 fans from Harare and Chitungwiza,” said the Dynamos Supporters’ Harare Chapter spokesperson, Solomon Chingono.
“We are also in collaboration with the other chapters like Bulawayo. It’s good that football action has returned and fans indeed add gloss and colour to the event. We urge all the supporters to observe the Covid-19 prevention protocols.”
Castle Lager Premiership Fixtures:
Today: FC Platinum v Dynamos (Mandava, 1pm), Chicken Inn v Bulawayo Chiefs (Luveve), Yadah v Black Rhinos (Baobab)
Tomorrow: Highlanders v WhaWha (Barbourfields), Herentals v Manica Diamonds (National Sports Stadium), Cranborne Bullets v ZPC Kariba (Baobab), Tenax v Bulawayo City (Sakubva), Triangle v Harare City (Gibbo)
Monday: CAPS United v Ngezi Platinum (National Sports Stadium)