Mapeza targets strong CL finish

FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza is targeting a strong finish to their Caf Champions League flirtation when they host Tunisian giants Esperance at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow.

The platinum miners endured a difficult campaign in the African Safari where they remain winless in five matches they have played managing two draws and three defeats.

They anchor Group B with a paltry two points.
That run ultimately ended FC Platinum’s hopes of making it to the knockout stages of the competition as they will exit the tournament after their match against Esperance.  

Platinum’s hopes of hosting the reigning African champions at their fortress Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane were dashed after Caf had a change of heart and asked them to continue using Barbourfields Stadium, despite having initially cleared the venue.
The platinum miners tried to have the match played at Mandava but the continental football body stood their ground citing poor accommodation facilities in the mining town of Zvishavane.
Mapeza reckons it is unfortunate that they never really enjoyed home advantage in this tournament having played all their games away from home at Barbourfields Stadium.

The reigning Coach of the Year now wants his charges to do the Zvishavane community proud by winning their last match tomorrow.  

“It has always been the case in this tournament, we never really enjoyed our home advantage,” Mapeza told the Daily News.
“I think for us it was more of a learning process. We are learning; we are getting the experience. “That’s the way we are going. We have moved one step further than we were before.

“This campaign has been an eye opener for us all at the club, it was a learning experience for everyone associated with the club.
“We hope to come back better next time. We now know what is needed at this level of the game and we hope to improve next time.”

“I hope the boys will do the community proud by at least beating the Africa champions in our last match. We are not under any pressure, we just want to enjoy our game as usual but it will obviously be great if we win our last match so that we can sign off in style.”

Mapeza saw his charges squander a 2-0 lead before settling for a 2-2 draw against South African giants Orlando Pirates last week as they found the target for the first time in the tournament. It was the best opportunity for the platinum miners to have picked up their first victory.   

And with nothing left to play for, Mapeza has since shifted his focus to their Castle Lager Premiership title defence ahead of the start of the season on March 30. Mapeza feels winning their match against Esperance will go a long way in boosting their confidence ahead of the start of the season.

“Our objective remains the same to win each and every game we play. We might be out of reckoning for the knockout stages of the Champions League but we want to try and wrap up on a winning note,” Mapeza said.

“For us it’s no longer just about the champions league but also preparing for the new season. 
“We are using the opportunity to try different combinations while working on our shortcomings.

“There is no better way to prepare for the new season like playing against Esperance.”
Mapeza will, however, be without three of his key players — defenders Gift Bello, Kevin Moyo and midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe — who are suspended.

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