HARARE – First impressions always count.
And this season, it is Norman Mapeza’s FC Platinum who have made the biggest impression so far — going about their business in a swashbuckling mood, making a complete mockery of almost every opponent they have faced so far.
Just last week, the Vietnam bay which houses DeMbare fans at Rufaro Stadium watched in painful admiration as Mapeza’s men displayed enchanting football and even at 90 minutes, they rose to salute the victorious platinum miners.
Real football fans know class when they see it, and understandably DeMbare fans had no option but to applaud the Zvishavane-side off the pitch.
There is character in the platinum miners’ ranks — in Tatenda Dzumbunu, Ian Nekati and Walter Musona — Mapeza has a thrusting young generation displaying quality football that defies their ages.
Yet in-between keeping check on the breathtaking football on view, Mapeza has built a side capable of challenging for honours this year.
In Mapeza, FC Platinum have a coach who has played at the highest level, seen it, tasted league success first as Charles Mhlauri’s assistant at CAPS United in 2004 and as head coach with Monomotapa in 2008.
On Saturday, the Zvishavane-based side swept aside struggling debutants Border Strikers 3 -0 at Mandava Stadium.
Strikers are struggling to keep pace with the big boys after getting promoted into the Premiership last season.
The Beitbridge side are the only team yet to win a single match after seven rounds of action and shockingly are yet to even score a goal, and they need nothing short of a miracle for them to survive relegation.
With the victory, FC Platinum opened up a five-point lead over second-placed Highlanders who were held to a 1-1 home draw by Harare City at Babourfields Stadium on Sunday.
Taurai Mangwiro, who recently blasted his side’s fans for demanding too much, will look to correct the shortcomings of Sunday’s draw at Bosso with a victory over Airforce of Zimbabwe side Chapungu on Friday.
But next in line for Mapeza is How Mine — who were stunned by Hwange 2-0 at the weekend.
Kelvin Kaindu’s side have been lukewarm this season, and are struggling for the consistency needed to make them challenge the leading pack.
A fortnight ago, they were beaten by Mutare City Rovers before bouncing back to burst CAPS United’s bubble with a 2-1 win at Luveve Stadium and they are sure to give Mapeza a full plate on Thursday.
Defending league champions, Chicken Inn finally woke up from their slumber with a 3-1 victory over newboys Mutare City Rovers on Sunday.
Coach Rahman Gumbo’s resolve will be put to test when he leads his new side over former paymasters CAPS United at Luveve Stadium tomorrow.
Makepekepe will go into the tie in need of a win to keep up with pacesetters FC Platinum, especially after dropping five points in their last two encounters.
On Saturday, United were ponderous in the first half before putting up an inspired fight to come back from two goals down to force a 2-2 draw against Sunday Chidzambwa’s ZPC Kariba.
Chidzambwa cut a frustrated figure after watching his side surrender what seemed like a comfortable 2-0 lead going into halftime, blaming his goalkeeper’s concentration.
ZPC Kariba took the lead through Limited Chikafa and Talent Chawapihwa, only for Tendai Hove, in goals for ZPC to concede second half goals from Phineas Bhamusi and Leonard Tsipa.
“The goalkeeper should have done better with those crosses. I am disappointed because we should have buried CAPS in the first half but we allowed them to come at us. We will take the point back to Kariba,” the former Warriors mentor said after the match.
Tomorrow, Chidzambwa’s ZPC Kariba will host Hwange at Nyamunga Stadium.
Harare giants, Dynamos registered only their second win of the season when they overcame Tsholotsho by a solitary goal at Barbourfields on Saturday to ease up pressure on interim coach Lloyd Mutasa.
Without a midweek fixture, the Glamour Boys have time to recover in time for Saturday’s clash against rivals Highlanders at Rufaro Stadium.