Mapeza downplays FC Platinum lead

HARARE – Although his side showed their true credentials as defending champions by defeating Ngezi Platinum Stars at their Baobab Stadium fortress, Norman Mapeza and his FC Platinum side are keeping their feet on the ground.

The defending champions had to come from a goal down before eventually equalising from the penalty spot two minutes from full time when Winston Mhango beat Ngezi keeper Tatenda Munditi.

Substitute Never Tigere then produced a moment of magic when his free kick from near the touch line sailed over Munditi with the last kick of the match.

The win meant that the defending champions went into pole position on the Castle Lager Premiership log with 41 points from 16 matches while Ngezi dropped into second with 38 points.

It was a huge statement by Mapeza’s side because Madamburo had not lost a league game at Baobab since August 2016 when they went down to the now defunct How Mine.

However, Mapeza feels the win did not change much in the complexion of the 2018 title race which has slowly become a duo poly between his team and Ngezi.

Third-placed Triangle is a distant 12 points behind FC Platinum and would need the top two teams to lose at least four matches to gate crash this party.

“It’s still too early to decide the league; we still have 18 games to go before the end of the season. I know that it’s still game on,” Mapeza said after the game.

“Both teams were fighting for the three points and who will be on top of the log after the game; of course we are now on top of the log because of the three points today but there are still many games to go.

“There will be twists and turns during this marathon but for us, we just have to remain humble and keep on working hard.

“We now need to concentrate on our game against Highlanders and then after that we give the guys a break. We came here looking for a positive result and it was not about breaking Ngezi’s impressive home record. They wanted to protect their record but our mandate was to come here and get a positive result.”

With Pure Platinum Play now on top of the log, Mapeza sounded cocky when asked if his side would be ready to defend their place at the apex of the league table.

“We are ready for that. We have been ready for it since we were in second position,” Mapeza said. 

Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderai Ndiraya said they will not throw in the towel yet as they will fight on in the second round.

“Look its’ quite disappointing to lose a game in such a manner, I thought our guys gave in at such a crucial moment; look this is football we learn from such situations,” Ndiraya said.

“We have to take it on the chin and look forward to our next game; it’s not all lost, we are still very much in it.

“There are still 18 games to go, ... we are behind FC Platinum now with three points but we remain confident that all is not lost.”

After appearing to be the most likely poised to break this platinum teams’ duo poly, Highlanders slipped up this weekend when they lost 0-1 at home to new boys Bulawayo Chiefs a Barbourfields Stadium.

Bosso dropped to fourth place on the log with 29 points and appear to be fizzling out at a crucial stage of the season.

Highlanders coach Madinda Ndlovu blamed the defeat on his side’s failure to finish the numerous chances they created despite playing with a man down following the first half red card to goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda.

“I think we didn’t start very well. We were a bit wild in our choice of passes and our build-ups were not as accurate as we would have loved them to be,” he said.

“I think we did very well in the second half. We planned our way of playing with one man down. We were more offensive and purposeful in our play with one man short.

“We created more chances and they didn’t find any space to play even if they had a numerical advantage. We created many chances but didn’t get that goal.”

After going for four games without a win, Dynamos finally eased their relegation worries with a slender 0-1 win over bottom side Mutare City Rovers.

The win left DeMbare in 13th place on the log with 17 points and four above the last relegation spot.