Senior Sports Reporter
FC PLATINUM skipper Petros Mhari has rallied his teammates to focus and avoid conceding at home as they look to begin their CAF Champions League first round tie against Tanzanian giants Simba S.C. on a positive footing at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
The match, which kicks off at 3pm behind closed doors, will be broadcast live on ZBC Television.
Mhari, who is one of the most experienced players in the Zimbabwean side, yesterday said they do not expect to leave anything to chance.
The platinum miners are mindful of the strength of their opponents, who reached the quarter-finals of the same competition two years ago, and are aiming for a clean sheet ahead of the second leg set for the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on January 6.
“Of course we know one or two things about Simba from watching them play in the Tanzanian league and also in these inter-club competitions,” said Mhari.
“But since we are starting at home, we just need to make sure that we get a positive result out of this match. In fact, it would be best if we avoid conceding goals at home because these goals have the tendency of coming back to haunt you in the second leg.
“Football is just a game played over 90 minutes. We need to execute our game-plan well and make sure that we maintain maximum concentration the entire match,” Mhari said.
FC Platinum have reached the group stages in their last two consecutive campaigns and the target for this year is to go beyond the last 16 for the first time.
However, they face a tall order considering they are coming from a background of complete lockdown which saw football being cancelled this year while their opponents have been playing continuously.
FC Platinum had not played a competitive match since February 2020 but they still had it in them to beat Costa do Sol of Mozambique, home and away, in the preliminary round.
Mhari and his teammates are looking to build on the momentum to get their campaign going.
“Obviously, we expect a tough match home and away considering Champions League is all about competitive football.
“Nothing comes easy at this level and you will also realise that these guys have been active and playing competitive football continuously while we have been on complete lockdown here.
“It’s not supposed to be an excuse but we definitely need to work hard. Also, there is no need to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure.
“It’s not anyone’s fault that there was no competitive football played in the country this year. So we have to adjust to the situations.
“We have been doing our best in terms of preparations but I just feel we are not yet at the level that we were when we last played in this competition,” said Mhari.
FC Platinum outclassed Mozambican opponents Costa do Sol 4-1 in the preliminary round. Simba, on the other hand, eliminated Nigerian team, Plateau United, via a 1-0 aggregate win.
The Tanzanians snatched an important away win when they upset the West Africans at their own backyard in the first leg before playing a goalless draw at home.
The East Africans, who are under the tutelage of Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck, say they are aiming for a good result in Harare today to boost their chances ahead of the second leg.
“We are ready to fight and get good results. Players are happy to be here. I believe every fan from home is with us and we will make sure we work here in Harare and return home with good results,” Vandenbroeck told the Simba S.C. media yesterday.
One of his key players Erasto Nyoni was more on the side of caution.
“Tomorrow’s game we will be careful because FC Platinum is a good team. I believe the coach has looked after them well and we as players are prepared. By God’s power I believe we will do well,” said Nyoni.
The visitors, however, were yesterday sweating over the health of two key men as first-choice goalkeeper Aishi Manula along with striker and captain John Bocco were being closely monitored by the medical team.
According to Simba’s Chief Executive Officer, Barbara Gonzalez, the players were expected to take a fitness test after yesterday’s practice at the National Sports Stadium to determine their chances of playing.