By Wellington Toni
BULAWAYO – FC Platinum played a goalless draw against Orlando Pirates in their opening Group B Total Caf Champions League match at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday.
After holders Esperance drew 1-1 on Friday night against Horoya of Guinea, pressure was on both sides to capture three points in a full capacity Barbourfields.
But despite their dominance in the opening 45 minutes where they forced eight corners, Platinum could not breach the Bucs defence marshalled by skipper Happy Jele.
The Zimbabwean side was off the mark as early as the eighth minute when a free kick from Farai Madhananga was forced off for a corner by Pirates goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane, but the hosts failed to utilise the advantage.
For the visitors, Kuda Mahachi, on an emotional return to Emagumeni where he played for Highlanders, delivered three corner kicks that were all put to waste by his teammates.
And chief among the culprits upfront were Thembinkosi Lorch and Zambian international Justin Shonga.
While Platinum, through Devon Chafa, Madhananga and Kelvin Madzongwe were able to dominate the midfield, the final pass to lone striker Mkhokheli Dube was always missing.
Coming from the two league matches in the last six days, Pirates were lethargic but turned the play around early in the second half, dominating in the middle of the park, but like Platinum, the final thread was missing and eventually Shonga was pulled off for Augustine Mulenga.
Mahachi mastered some courage with mazy runs down the left wing, but no takers were found for his crosses as Kelvin Moyo, Gift Bello and William Stima held fort.
At some stage, halfway through the second half, goalkeeper Petros Mhari was called into action to twice deny Musa Nyatama and Shonga, first from a freekick and then the rebound.
Platinum pushed ahead and brought in Lameck Nhamo five minutes before the end in search of an elusive winner but the change yielded no result, and instead for cautious play to emerge with a point.
In the end, both teams had to be content with the draw, seeing that neither Horoya or the defending champions Esperance had won their opening match on Friday night.
Platinum fly out to Tunisia midweek to face the defending champions while Horoya AC travel to South Africa to face Pirates at Orlando Stadium on January 18.