Four-time Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions FC Platinum laid down a marker to their title credentials with a record-extending victory in the season-opening Castle Challenge Cup at Mandava on Saturday.
They dominated and duly posted a 2-0 win over Bulawayo Chiefs in this contest that features the country’s league champions and the Chibuku Super Cup champions from the previous campaign.
The Zvishavane club have won each and every edition of this Castle Challenge Cup instalment since it was introduced four seasons ago.
And they did it with both vigour and style, showing the gulf that exists between them and their opponents.
This is a team that has managed to retain the same squad that did duty for the club last season except for a few reserve players like Evidence Tendayi, who is now at lower division side Harare City.
They have added more depth into the squad, roping in Jarison Selemani, Misheck Ngwenya and Perfect Chikwende, who is not new to the setup and team philosophy, having been there just over a year ago.
And they showed just how they could destroy opponents with incredible variations on display on Saturday.
Coach Norman Mapeza might just have struck a jackpot in Selemani, especially.
The Mbare-born former Cranborne Bullets winger was deployed on the left wing in a 4-3-3 formation with Panashe Mutimbanyoka operating on the other flank while Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya took the centre forward position.
Hagiazo Magaya, Juan Mutudza and Brian Banda operated the midfield engine room. And the miners were at their very best. Selemani started slowly as he was isolated in the wing but once he got into the groove, the ex-Dynamos player showed he could be the team’s main man this coming season.
In his first foray forward, Selemani picked the ball with his right and took on Bulawayo Chiefs right-back Felex Moyo.
He left the latter bewildered with his burst of speed before selling a dummy to William Stima, who stumbled and lost balance, and Selemani whipped in an inch-perfect cross that was slotted home by Mutimbanyoka.
From then, Selemani was all over, detecting the pace of the match, and even forcing the substitution of Moyo who had apparently overworked thanks to the new FC Platinum recruit’s trickery.
He then grabbed the team’s second goal, volleying in from a Mutimbanyoka cross from the right.
In a way, FC Platinum showed that they could be very dangerous in the wings.
Their midfield is also sharp with each of the players in this department capable of getting themselves in scoring positions.
In fact, Banda and Magaya should have scored had they been decisive in the box.
That Mapeza could even afford to sit reigning Soccer Star of the Year Walter Musona and Chikwende on the bench and still dominate proceedings just showed how the team can destroy opponents this season.
Mapeza was happy with how his team presented themselves in the field.
“It was a good game for us, we played well on our first competitive match of the season and I have to give it to the boys.
“I’m not concerned about our fitness levels, I think we are not bad. The boys have been working really hard,” said Mapeza.
“Selemani had a brilliant game and you all saw what he can do, but I think Ngwenya (Misheck) was overlooked, for me, he was the most outstanding and I’m really happy for him.”
FC Platinum open their season with a date against new boys Simba Bhora this coming weekend.
One could feel for Bulawayo Chiefs though as this is a team with the majority of the players new to the system.
Chiefs were deserted by a number of players and they are basically rebuilding with coach Lizwe Sweswe putting it into perspective.
“This is not the result (defeat) which we came here for but that’s football.
“We are building from scratch since we lost several key players who were here last season,” said Sweswe.
“But, I’m confident that these boys have what it takes to give a fight this season, we are still working on combinations and once we get in the groove I’m sure good results will come.”
In other news,
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