By Tadious Manyepo
Zimbabwe’s champions FC Platinum might be reeling at the basement of CAF Champions’ League Group B with a single point in three outings but their coach Norman Mapeza insists the plot has not been lost as yet.
Mapeza’s team, who are participating in the CAF Champions’ League group stages for the first time, complicated their lives after suffering a 0-1 home loss to Guinea side Horoya last Saturday, an outcome which left them at the base of the table with a whole lot of work to do.
They are now four points adrift of leaders Orlando Pirates, who are tied on five points with second-placed Esperance of Tunisia.
With the return leg in Guinea up next on Tuesday, Mapeza knows his charges cannot afford to drop points if they are to keep pace with the leading pack given that Esperance and Pirates will be cancelling each other in the group’s other match in Tunisia on the same day.
“For me as a coach and the players it is a good experience. We just have to continue working hard and see what happens in our next matches,” he said.
“Mathematically, you might say that (we are out of the running for the quarter-finals) but like I said for us it is about experience. This is our first time to play in the Champions League (group stages), we just have to keep on working hard and see what happens in our remaining matches.”
But worryingly, FC Platinum have not been able to hit the target in all the three matches they have played to date, having played a goalless stalemate with Orlando Pirates in their opening match before losing 0-2 to Esperance.
While the Zimbabweans were losing more ground in their bid to reach the quarter final, another Southern African team with whom they share the same group with, Pirates, were also missing a huge opportunity to open a three point gap at the top after being restricted to a scoreless draw by holders Esperance who they face in Tunisia on Tuesday.
Despite creating a lot of gilt-edged opportunities in the match they largely bossed, the Buccaneers failed to breach the Tunisians and now need to at least avoid defeat against the same opponents to retain wide chances of nailing a quarter-final berth.
On the other hand, 2016 winners Mamelodi Sundowns grabbed full advantage of their home turf emerging 3-1 winners over Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas with Themba Zwane, Mosa Lebusa and Emiliano Tade strikes carrying the day for Pitso Mosimane’s team.
The Tshwane giants took their points tally to six, the same as leaders Wydad AC ahead of Tuesday’s round of fixtures against the same opponents in the Ivory Coast, the same day Wydad will be hosting Lobi Stars. Group A is wide open with both ASEC and Lobi Stars tied on three points with three games still to be played.
In the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup, three Southern African teams posted a mixed bag of results in the group stage opening day with Zesco United beating fellow Zambian side Nkana 2-0 to shoot to the summit of Group C standings on goal difference.
John Ching’andu and Lazarus Kambole’s first-half efforts settled the fiercely contested encounter.
Nkana will be hoping to make amends in their next fixture at home to Hilal Omdurman whilst Zesco United will be away to Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko on Wednesday.
On the other hand, Angolan side Petro Luanda had an indifferent start in Group D, losing 1-2 to NA Hussein Dey and they will be counting on home advantage on Wednesday when they take on leaders Gor Mahia of Kenya in their second game.
CAF Champions League
Tuesday 12 February 2019
Esperance v Orlando Pirates
Horoya v FC Platinum
Simba v Ahly
ASEC Mimosas v Mamelodi Sundowns
Club Africain v TP Mazembe
CS Constantine v Ismaily
Saoura v AS Vita
Wydad Casablanca v Lobi Stars
CAF Confederation Cup
Wednesday 13 February 2019
Asante Kotoko v Zesco United
Nkana v Hilal Omdurman
Petro Luanda v Gor Mahia
Raja Casablanca v Otoho d’Oyo
Salitas v Etoile du Sahel
CS Sfaxien v Enugu Rangers
RSB Berkane v Hassania Agadir
Zamalek v NA Hussein Dey