NGEZI Platinum Stars coach Takesure Chiragwi is pleased with his squad’s depth which he feels is good enough to deliver the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title which had eluded them since their promotion into the topflight.
Chiragwi's men bounced back from last week’s 1-nil defeat to second-placed FC Platinum by beating Chicken Inn by the same scoreline at Baobab Stadium on Saturday.
Malvin Gaki scored the only goal of the match on his first start for the club in the league this season.
Chiragwi, who was also without club top goalscorer Takunda Benhura in the tie due to national team commitments, handed a rare start to Claude Mapoka and the attacker proved to be a valuable asset with a man of the match performance.
The youthful coach heaped praise on his team afterwards for bouncing back to winning ways after last week's setback. He stressed the importance of having a squad with depth as the log leaders look to keep title rivals at arm's length in the remaining seven games.
Ngezi Platinum Stars are also in the semi-finals of the Chibuku Super Cup where they will face Black Rhinos next week.
“The guys are showing very good character. We lost in Mandava the previous week and they showed character by bouncing back and winning the next game. This is a very good team that when they lose a game, they come back into the next one and doesn’t lose again. I said it after the FC Platinum game that we had lost, but just on the result. The performance was up there and it gave me the belief that in the next game we would win. That is exactly what we did,” Chiragwi said.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, who top the log table with 54 points, eight clear of second-placed FC Platinum, are yet to lose back-to-back games this season. Only once did they drop points in two consecutive games this term.
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Chiragwi believes he has enough depth and quality to carry the team over the line in this intriguing title race.
“We have enough depth in this team. We didn't have Takunda who was on national duty at the weekend and we can't say we missed him. We had Claudius Mapoka coming in and he played extremely well. He was probably my man of the match. He did everything right. Also Gaki came into the starting 11 and he gave us the win. The captain (Qadr Amini) also gave us a brilliant performance as always. He is maturing like wine. I can safely say we have a team that can compete week in and out and can get a result. We are happy about that,” said the gaffer who should, deep down, be salivating to nick the team’s first league silverware.
Ngezi Platinum's depth and quality was also evident during their Chibuku Super Cup quarter-final against Herentals a fortnight ago when the team was missing Amini and first choice goalkeeper Nelson Chadya who were also away on national duty.
Second-choice goalkeeper Mariyoni Chang came in and exclusively won his team the match, including saving from the spot during the penalty shootout.
With games coming thick and fast, Chiragwi will be expected to shuffle his pack again when his side makes a short trip to Harare tomorrow to face title rivals Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium.
“We now have to shift the focus on the next game against Dynamos, which is the most important game for us,” Chiragwi said.
Despite his team appearing to be in firm control of the title race, Chiragwi once again refused to be given the favourites tag.
“We are not very concerned about our position on the log, I have said this over and over again. We play competitions to win, but more importantly, we want to develop a culture here. That is exactly what we are working on, to build a team that will compete well next year and thefollowing year going forward. This is the time to make sure that we build a team that will compete in the future,” he modestly added.
Matchday 28 fixtures
Tomorrow: GreenFuel v Highlanders (GreenFuel Arena), FC Platinum v Black Rhinos (Mandava), Chicken Inn v Zpc Kariba (Luveve), Sheasham v Triangle (Bata), Simba Bhora v Caps United (Baobab), Dynamos v Ngezi Platinum Stars (National Sports Stadium), Hwange v Herentals (Colliery).
Thursday: Cranborne Bullets v Bulawayo Chiefs (National Sports Stadium), Yadah v Manica Diamonds (Baobab).