AS HAD largely been expected, FC Platinum utilised their Mandava fortress to their advantage to edge past Malagasy outfit CNaPS and set up a Champions League first round date against Congolese side Association Sportive Otho D’oyo.
The Zimbabwe soccer Kings welcomed the Indian Ocean islanders knowing that even a goalless draw would have sufficed to see them negotiate their way past the preliminary round.
But with gritty midfielder Farai Madhananga enjoying fine form, the hosts made sure their passage was secured in regulation time when reigning Castle Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere struck.
Just like he did in the first leg, Madhananga was for the second game in command as the Zvishavane miners sent the battling Madagascar champions out of the competition.
FC Platinum will now expect another cagey assignment in the first round against AS Otoho D’oyo and thanks largely to the form of Madhananga.
The former Harare City man muscled his way into the box before squaring the ball into the path of Chinyengetere who slotted home the only goal of the match.
FC Platinum had last week restricted the CNaPS to a 1-1 stalemate away in Antananarivo to secure a victory that puts them in line to face an AS Otoho D’oyo side that upstaged perennial Angolan campaigners Primeiro Agosto.
This means there will be no repeat of last year’s first round clash against the Angolans who knocked them out of the first round before going all to the way to semi-finals where Esperance of Tunisia eventually stopped them.
A heavy downpour hit Zvishavane before the match and the pitch was not conducive for FC Platinum’s free flowing football.
The visitors are also used to playing on an artificial turf and they also struggled to cope with the conditions on the pitch.
Coach Norman Mapeza threw in newboy Lameck Nhamo in the starting team for his FC Platinum debut and the burly striker did not disappoint either on his debut.
Mapeza, however, refused to be drawn into commenting about individual performances in his side and expressed his satisfaction in the way they played as a team.
“It was not easy . . . in the second half we were a bit cautious (but) when we got that goal it opened up the game, we were strong at the back and I am happy we managed to get a result.
“I know they were going to come at us, but credit to the boys. They did very well, we now prepare for our next game.
“My worry is now for the boys we have been playing football since January and it is not easy for the boys but I am happy our recovery programme has been going on well,” he said.
Despite their progression, coach Mapeza felt his men should learn the tactic of killing the game in the latter stages of the competition.
“When we are playing in Africa we need to learn to kill the game, we were leading one nil but the players kept on going you need to take the ball to the corner flag and kill off some time.
“We need to learn to manage the game,” Mapeza said.
The hosts showed their intentions as early as the fifth minute, when Madhananga came close to scoring his second in this encounter after Gift Mbweti had pushed the ball into his path, but the former’s strike was inches over.
Moments later, Devon Chafa’s powerful strike from a distance was repelled by the impressive CNaPS goalkeeper Jean Randrianasolo, but Chinyengetere failed to time his run to perfection to bury the rebound.
The miners continued to be on the front foot, forwards Mbweti and Chinyengetere had a smart exchange in the final third but the former failed again to beat the inspired Randrianasolo.
Midway through the half, the visitors got a rare chance to taste the resolve of Petros Mhari but striker Arnauld Randrinantenaina sent his free-kick over the bar.
The visitors came a more determined side after the breather threatening to pull a shocker in enemy territory.
On the hour mark versatile defender William Sitima timed his run to perfection, accelerating to thwart the run of livewire Madagascar international Lalaina Manampisoa who was charging at goal.
Two minutes later, evergreen Madhananga charged at the opponents before releasing the ball into the path of Chinyengetere who had a simple task of just slotting it beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
The visitors were refusing to be cowed into submission and Milison Niasexe was through on goal but Gift Bello summoned his experience and sacrificed a yellow card for the team when he hacked down the opponent.
Five minutes before full-time, Thomas Chideu should have wrapped the game as a contest but missed a clear chance after some fine work by his teammates.
CNaPS coach Patrick Andriambololona was full of complaints at the final whistle after watching his team fail to progress.
“We had our chances we should have scored but we failed to score, again there was an issue with the referee, he should have given a red card.
“There were some changes in the FC Platinum team so it was like learning a new team all together that was difficult on our part, they had players that did not play in Madagascar.
“The terrain was also heavy for us and the water on the pitch after the rain made us tired but the humidity was okay for us, the problem was not on our defence but our strikers let us down, that is where we lost the game,” said Andriambololona.
FC Platinum: P Mhari, R Muduviwa, E Moyo, W Sitima, G Bello, K Madzongwe, D Chafa, F Madhanhanga, G Mbweti (L Mhlanga 86th min), R Chinyengetere, L Nhamo (T Chideu 62nd min)
CNaPS Sport: J Randrianasolo, L Manampisoa, J Bourahim, E Tolojanahary (R Fetraniaina 22nd min), R Rojaonarivelo, T Sandratriniaina, T Miandrisoa (M Niasexe 65th min), A Andrianavalona (T Randrianiaina 32nd min), O Ramiandrison, A Randrinantenaina, T Andrianirina