Paul Mundandi in ZVISHAVANE—
(FC Platinum win 3-1 after penalties)
A PLUCKY Harare City were seconds away from winning their major piece of silverware in the Premiership before a disputed last-gasp equaliser denied them their hour of glory, handing FC Platinum a lifeline, in this Chibuku Super Cup final at Mandava yesterday.The Sunshine Boys, who came in as the underdogs, appeared to be on their way to producing one of the biggest upsets in the top-flight league this season, as they led the hosts, odds-on-favourites to win this tie in their backyard.
But a very, very late goal, which the visitors claimed the ball didn’t cross the line, denied them their finest hour, since their entry into the Premiership two years ago, and provided a lifeline for the hosts who then went on to hold their nerve and win this contest in a penalty shootout lottery.
The Harare City players and management felt they were robbed on two fronts — arguing that time was up by the time FC Platinum grabbed their hotly disputed equaliser and, crucially, that the ball did not cross the line in that goalmouth melee.
Referee Norman Matemera, who has had more than his fair share of controversy in his career, including that late equaliser by Partson Jaure for Dynamos against Highlanders at Rufaro and questionable officiating in the Yadah TV Knockout Cup semi-final, looked to his second assistant, Abraham Manda, for guidance.
Manda took what looked like eternity before racing to the centre, to indicate that it was a goal, triggering anger among the Harare City players and officials and joy among the hosts.
Social media exploded soon after that decision had been made, with Harare City having a number of sympathisers, including some of the country’s football writers, standing in their corner.
A ZBC journalist covering the match Francis Nyamutsamba, who had the benefit of watching replays of the incident on recorded footage, said the ball crossed the line and the referee was right to award the goal.
The Sunshine Boys appeared to have done enough to win the silverware, and a ticket into the CAF Confederation Cup next year, but when the hosts were awarded a free-kick by Matemera, in the twilight of the game, the hosts sent a lot of men into the penalty area for one final siege on their opponents.
Thabani Kamusoko flighted the ball into the area and in the goalmouth melee, Walter Musona got the crucial touch but Matemera, from his position, could not tell whether the ball had crossed the line and appealed to his assistant for guidance.
Manda, after some hesitation, signalled a goal and FC Platinum survived.
“This is daylight robbery. To say the honest truth, we were robbed,” said Harare City coach Masimba Dinyero.
“These referees are killing the game.
“The fourth official had indicated four minutes of injury time and when the four minutes elapsed, Platinum were handed a free-kick from nowhere and they equalised.
“We could have won the game but my players were dejected. Their spirit was killed.”
Dinyero refused to collect his losers’ medal, even though he went for the presentation ceremony, and shook hands with the sponsors before pouring out his heart to PSL chairman Twine Phiri.
For Norman Mapeza and his team, there was a sense of relief that they had found a way back into the game and, ultimately, won this contest to grab the ticket into the CAF Confederation Cup.
“God was on our side. We worked hard for this. When I came to Platinum I did not promise anything and I am still moving on,” said Mapeza.
“I am not yet satisfied and I still want more and now my target is the Mbada Diamonds Cup.
“I am happy to have won the trophy and I dedicate it to the people who have been supportive to me and I will not mention their names.
“We practised penalties yesterday (Saturday) and the pitch was not fine for the final.
“I said it but the powers who govern football thought otherwise. I wanted a neutral venue.”
Musona, Kelvin Moyo and right-back Raphael Muduviwa converted from the spot for the hosts while Osborne Mukuradare, Raymond Uchena, goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupane- dengu failed from the spot for the visitors whose only successful conversion came from Timire Mamvura.
Harare City, who played a good passing game, had gone into the lead through exciting forward Talent Chawapiwa, after being set up by Fransico Zvekumbawire, in the 37th minute, firing a screamer that Mhari never saw.
FC Platinum could have gone ahead in the 19th minute through Zambian youth international Obrey Chirwa but his effort hit the crossbar with goalkeeper Nyamupanedengu out of action.
The hosts were again on the offensive in the 31st minute when Musona exchanged passes with Chirwa in the box but the former fired wide with only Nyamupanedengu to beat.
FC Platinum kept on bombarding the Harare City goal and Warriors defender Elvis Moyo saw his effort saved by the Harare City goalminder in the 55th minute.
Substitute midfielder Simon Shoko nearly equalised in the 77th minute but his full-bloodied shot was headed out for a corner by defender Arnold Chivheya who was in tears after the match.
A waterlogged pitch, and poor light at the end, took the gloss from what was a good duel between the two teams.
FC Platinum: Mhari, R. Muduviwa, E. Moyo,G. Bello, K. Moyo, O. Chirwa, D. Ngoma,T. Dzumbunu (S. Shoko, 69th min), A. Gahadzikwa (W. Mutasa, 46th min), T. Kamusoko.
Harare City: M. Nyamupanedengu, N. Diro, A. Chivheye, D. Kutyauripo, T. Ngulube, C. Dickson (T. Mamvura, 83rd min), O. Mukuradare, J. Jam, A. Murimba (R. Uchena 83rd min), F. Zvekumbawire,T. Chawapiwa.