Senior Sports Reporter
Simba SC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 4
FC Platinum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0)
(Simba SC win 4-1 on aggregate and proceed to the CAF Champions League Group Stage)
FC PLATINUM experienced a nightmarish outing in Tanzania yesterday after they were told five key players had tested positive for COVID-19 moments before the decisive CAF Champions League encounter that was marred by disgraceful officiating in favour of hosts, Simba Sports Club.
The match, dubbed “War in Dar” by the hosts, turned out to be a real confrontation on and off the pitch as Simba SC were accused of employing dirty tactics to get the result they needed at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar-es-salaam to progress to the group stage of the competition at the expense of the Zimbabweans.
FC Platinum carried a 1-0 advantage going into the clash following their victory at the National Sports Stadium in Harare two weeks ago. They had hoped to protect their lead and progress to the group stage for the third time in a row.
But they experienced the worst of African football before succumbing to goals from veteran defender Erasto Nyoni, Shomari Kapombe, John Bocco and Zambian Clatous Chama.
The Zimbabweans played the game under protest after players, who included goalkeeper and skipper Petros Mhari, Lawrence Mhlanga, Silas Songani, Ransome Pavari and Congolese forward Eli Ilunga, were told they had returned positive Covid-19 results about two hours before kickoff.
Three officials, who included team manager Joseph Mususa, goalkeepers’ trainer Tembo Chuma and medic Jeskia Chavurura, were also reported to have tested positive for Covid-19.
The hosts however, held on to the results of the Covid-19 tests that were conducted on Monday until the eleventh hour. There were queries whether the results had not been tampered with following similar complaints by Nigerian outfit, Plateau United, who encountered the same predicament against Simba SC in the preliminary round.
The Nigerians have since taken up the matter with CAF after finding out that the affected players were negative when they retested them at a private hospital.
FC Platinum, who tested their players before leaving Harare, had travelled with a squad of 23 but they were left with 16 players available for selection as two others were carrying injuries..
Mapeza had to redo his line-up as four of the players who reportedly returned positive results had been drafted in the starting eleven.
Apparently, the FC Platinum players could not handle the trauma and from their body language it appeared they had lost the match long before the kickoff.
The Zimbabweans were not psychologically equipped and they lacked the composure and toughness expected at this level of the competition.
They carried their frustrations into the game and the disputed penalty they conceded worsened the already bad situation.
FC Platinum players were unsettled and they made unnecessary mistakes, which contributed to their own downfall.
The Zimbabweans were fortunate to finish the game with all the players on the field. They squandered most of their energy and time remonstrating with the referee instead of concentrating on the game, which was within reach if they had managed to bury the two scoring chances that Ralph Kawondera spurned in the second half when Simba were still leading 1-0.
The Tanzanians were awarded a hotly contested penalty by the Gabonese referee in charge of the game after Tawana Chikore was adjudged to have fouled Mozambican international Luis Miquissone. But television replays showed that the foul was committed just outside the box and there was a six minutes’ standoff as the visiting players walked out before Mapeza urged them to go back onto the pitch.
Nyoni gave the hosts the breakthrough from the resultant spot kick after 39 minutes.
The second goal was also disputed as Kapombe, who scored from a rebound by second-choice goalkeeper Francis Tizayi, appeared to have been in offside position when the initial shot was taken by teammate Rally Bwalya.
FC Platinum played with purpose in the second half but substitute John Bocco had the game beyond reach when he tapped in the third goal from close range from a pass by Bwalya in added time.
Chama then put in the final nail from the spot following an indiscreet piece of defending by the visitors.
FC platinum will now drop to the second-tier Confederation Cup where they will take another shot at group stage qualification.
The draws for the Confederation Cup play-offs and the Champions League Group stage will be held at the CAF headquarters in Egypt tomorrow.
Simba SC: A. Manula, S. Kapombe, M. Hussein, J. Onyango, P. Wawa, E. Nyoni, R. Bwalya, S. Ndeml (S. Juma, 61st min), C. Mugalu (M. Kagere, 76th min, J. Bocco, 85th min), C. Chama, L. Miquissone
FC Platinum: F. Tizayi, G. Mbweti, T. Chikore, G. Bello, D. Dzvinyai, N. Chinyerere, K. Madzongwe, D. Khumalo (R. Muduviwa, 59th min), R. Kawondera, P. Chikwende, R. Kutsanzira,