Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
WHICH of the two platinum sides, Ngezi Platinum Stars and FC Platinum will dig up the most valuable three points when they face-off in a top of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League table clash at Baobab Stadium this afternoon?
History favours FC Platinum to beat Ngezi as the Zvishavane side has collected seven points from a possible 12 in the four games that they have played since the former was promoted into the topflight in 2016. FC Platinum have won twice, 1-0 in their first meeting at Baobab in 2016 and last season’s 2-1 home victory. They shared spoils on October 15 in 2016, finishing the game 1-1. Ngezi beat FC Platinum 2-1 at home last season.
Ngezi top the table tied on 38 points with FC Platinum but have a superior goal difference of a goal.
The pacesetters whose 14-game unbeaten run came to a halt last Sunday when they fell 0-1 away to Bulawayo Chiefs will be hoping to bounce back from that defeat and increase their lead to three points.
How Ngezi, who are unbeaten in 31 league games at Baobab respond will be key to their championship hopes.
The table-toppers last lost a league match at home on August 13, 2016 when they were beaten 2-0 by defunct How Mine. Since then, Ngezi have gone on to win 23 matches at home and played to eight draws. Their last draw at home was on November 15, 2017 when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Triangle United.
This season, Ngezi have won all their eight home games. They have only conceded two goals at Baobab during their 2-1 victory against Mutare City Rovers and the 3-1 win over Harare City.
Ngezi have been clinical at home, scoring 20 goals this season.
However, heading into the weekend game, Ngezi’s top spot as well as their impressive home record are at the risk of being crashed by defending champions FC Platinum whose confidence is high following last weekend’s 4-0 win against Shabanie Mine.
FC Platinum have been good on the road, winning six out of the eight away games, drawing 0-0 with Caps and just like Ngezi, they were beaten by Bulawayo Chiefs. FC Platinum went down 2-0 to Chiefs.
The defending champions have scored 13 goals on the road and conceded three times in the 2-0 defeat to Chiefs and their 2-1 victory over Herentals.
FC Platinum will have to find a way of shutting Ngezi’s attacks whose home scoring ration is 2.5 per game.
However, Ngezi are crippled going into Saturday’s game as they have three key players goalkeeper Donovan Bernard who has been in terrific form conceding just five goals in 15 games, central midfielder Xolisani Moyo and striker Clive Augusto.
They will also be without the services of another central midfielder Walter Mukanga who picked up an injury against Chiefs as well as the league’s leading scorer Terrence Dzukamanja with eight goals who is on national duty with the Warriors at the Cosafa Cup in South Africa.
Mukanga, Moyo and Augusto have each scored three goals.
With a full squad, FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza is spoiled for choice while his Ngezi counterpart Tonderai Ndiraya will have to find come up with five equally good players to replace the absent quintet.
FC Platinum’s hopes will be pinned on goalkeeper Petros Mhari, defenders Gift Bello, Raphael Muduviwa and Elvis Moyo. The midfield quintet of anchorman Winston Mhango, Rahman Kutsanzira, Edwin Madanhanga, Rodwell Chinyengetere and Gift Mbweti will be expected to provide a clean supply of goals to striker, Mkhokheli Dube.
Today: Nichrut v Triangle United (Ascot), Chicken Inn v Herentals (Luveve), ZPC Kariba v Harare City (Nyamhunga), Caps United v Bulawayo City (National Sports Stadium), Ngezi Platinum Stars v FC Platinum (Baobab)
Tomorrow: Mutare City Rovers v Dynamos (Vengere), Shabanie Mine v Black Rhinos (Maglas), Highlanders v Bulawayo Chiefs (Barbourfields), Yadah v Chapungu (National Sports Stadium)