HAVING been out of the Premier Soccer League since 2008, Norman Mapeza has shown that he still has the midas touch after leading FC Platinum to the final of the $500 000 Chibuku Super Cup with a win over Black Rhinos on Saturday.
Walter Musona scored the only goal of the match 12 minutes from time, converting a superb cross from right-back Raphael Muduviwa after a move initiated by Zambian international Obrey Chirwa.
Mapeza led Monomotapa to the league title in 2008, but left at the end of the season before a dance with the Warriors, which involved a six-month ban.
He served his ban quietly, keeping abreast of action in the local league. When the ban came to an end and Platinum came calling, he could not resist the chance to return to the dugout, replacing Lloyd Mutasa three months ago.
While the ZNA Charity Shield final against Caps United was a low key event, the very fact that he won it 6-0 made quite a number of football fans take notice. They were to beat the same team 1-0 in the quarter-finals of the Chibuku Super Cup.
In the league, he overcame Black Rhinos 1-0 in Kadoma, but found no favours from Highlanders in his first league match at home who triumphed 1-0. In the first round of the Chibuku Super Cup, he trounced Bantu Rovers while waiting for his first league win at home.
There was no joy at Triangle as they lost 0-2 before returning home to play a 0-0 draw against Dynamos in a match they could have easily won had it not been for a howler by referee Mlindeli Ndebele who denied them a clear penalty when Chirwa was tripped from behind while clear on goal.
Pressure was gradually coming to the former Warriors coach and at this stage, the Pure Platinum Play president George Mawere must have been wondering if they had made the right decision in hiring Mapeza.
But the breakthrough finally arrived against Buffaloes.
They won 2-1.
That is the break that led to a three- win run as they beat Harare City 2-0 at Rufaro Stadium last week and returned to the same venue on Saturday, this time beating Rhinos 1-0 to reach the final of the Chibuku Super Cup.
Speaking to our sister paper, Standard Sport, Mapeza said: “I spoke to the boys before the match and told them it could be achieved.
I told them this is a cup semi-final, therefore, the tensions will be high so they had to be prepared. The team has been in many cup finals, but this result is good for me as a coach who has just arrived.”
Many cup finals indeed: They have won the CG Msipa Charity Shield, ZNA Commanders Charity Shield and the Independence Trophy this season.
With five matches before the end of the season, Platinum are perched on fifth place with 38 points, one off fourth-placed Highlanders ahead of their tough clash against second-placed ZPC Kariba this weekend at Mandava-the pick of Matchday 26.
After ZPC, they are back in the capital against red hot Caps United before taking on Chicken Inn at home. They will then face Hwange at the Colliery before rounding off the season against bottom-placed Chiredzi.
A top-four finish will guarantee them a place in the season ending Mbada Diamonds Cup.
The arrival of Mapeza has rejuvenated a whole lot of players — Elvis and Kelvin Moyo are playing more regularly now at the back with the experienced Daniel Vheremu on the bench. Musona is playing purposefully in a more advanced while Chirwa is finding the goals now.
Allen Gahadzikwa is slowly coming into the fore. The presence of Thabani Kamusoko steadies the ship in midfield and when the going gets tough, Mapeza is able to call on Benjamin Marere, Donald Ngoma and Simon Shoko.
These are some of the players that will form the core of Mapeza’s side next season as he builds his own team. He inherited a lot of talented players, but perhaps, chopping and changing under Mutasa was not helping in marinating consistency.
With solid support from the team’s management, the green and white clad fans, Platinum are now making a late challenge into the top four.
Week 26-30 fixtures
Week 26: How Mine v Chiredzi, Buffaloes v Harare City, Black Rhinos v Hwange, Triangle v Caps United, Dynamos v Chapungu, Highlanders v Chicken Inn, FC Platinum v ZPC Kariba, Bantu Rovers v Shabanie Mine
Week 27: Shabanie Mine v How Mine, ZPC Kariba v Buffaloes, Hwange v Highlanders, Caps United v FC Platinum, Chapungu v Bantu Rovers, Chicken Inn v Triangle, Chiredzi v Black Rhinos, Harare City v Dynamos
Week 28: How Mine v Chapungu, Buffaloes v Caps United, Triangle v Hwange, FC Platinum v Chicken Inn, Highlanders v Chiredzi, Dynamos v Bantu Rovers, Harare City v ZPC Kariba, Black Rhinos v Shabanie Mine
Week 29: Bantu Rovers v How Mine, Chicken Inn v Buffaloes, Hwange vs FC Platinum, Caps United v Harare City, Chapungu v Black Rhinos, Chiredzi v Triangle, ZPC Kariba v Dynamos, Shabanie Mine v Highlanders
Week 30: Dynamos v How Mine, Buffaloes v Hwange, ZPC Kariba v Caps United, Highlanders v Chapungu, Harare City v Chicken Inn, FC Platinum v Chiredzi, Black Rhinos v Bantu Rovers, Triangle v Shabanie Mine