FC PLATINUM coach, Norman Mapeza, says he won’t blame his players, but the tough situation they find themselves in, where the playing field isn’t level for them.

The Zvishavane side suffered a morale-sapping home defeat to Senegalese side, ASC Jaraaf, in the a CAF Confederation Cup group stage play-off tie on Sunday.

Mapeza believes his players could have done better had they played more competitive matches in the last 12 months.

Domestic top-flight football has been halted, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year, and the platinum miners are paying the price.

“It’s normal you get demoralised, after a defeat, but I cannot fault the boys. I think they gave it their all,’’ the coach said.

“I think the biggest contributing factor is that we need to play football week-in-and-week-out.

“I still feel that sharpness wasn’t there. I hope that our league will start soon. Otherwise training, and camping without playing friendly games or competitive matches, I don’t think it will improve us as a team going forward.

“We need to play competitive football week in-and-week-out.’’

The hosts complicated life, for themselves on Sunday, when they fluffed good opportunities, including a missed penalty, in the 0-1 defeat at the National Sports Stadium.

Mapeza said they lost the battle, and not the war.

“I think the guys played well, especially first half. Then, second half, after we had introduced those fresh legs, I think we increased the tempo of the game,’’ he said.

“Unfortunately, I think it wasn’t our day but, overall, the guys did well.’’

The former Zimbabwe international is being inspired by Jaraaf’s journey into the play-offs and hope his men will write a similar script.

The Senegalese giants staged a dream comeback, in the previous round, when they edged fellow West Africans FC San Pedro of Cote d’Ivoire, in the first round.

They had lost the first leg 0-1 at home but they pulled through on away goals rule after they beat their opponents 2-1 in the second leg.

“In football anything can happen. We watched their previous games when they lost at home but they managed to win away.  “So, we just need to remain positive and we still have belief that we can turn the tables.’’

Silas Songani missed a penalty and they also had a couple of other good opportunities, which they failed to utilise.

The worst moment was the added time miss by Gift Bello, when he crashed the ball against the woodwork, with the ‘keeper out of sight.

The platinum miners are scheduled to travel to Senegal later this week.

ASC Jaraaf announced the return leg will be played on Sunday at the 20 000-seater Stade Lat Dior, in the city of Thies, about 72km east of the capital Dakar.

“As for that goal that we conceded, I think we could have done better. I still feel there are some other areas that we have done well,’’ he said.

“As for the chances missed, to me, it’s something positive because, at least, we were creating those chances

“If there wasn’t anything to talk about, in terms of scoring opportunities, then it was going to be a real disaster for us because you can’t have a day when you dominate for, maybe, 75 or so minutes then you don’t create any decent chance.

“We had some decent opportunities and, if we were a bit sharp and had been playing competitive football regularly, I think it was going to be a different story.”

The Senegalese side have indicated they will not take FC Platinum for granted in the return leg.

Jaraaf, who also dismissed Kano Pillars of Nigeria in the preliminary round, have been in good form of late.

Unlike FC Platinum, their league started in January and they came to Harare on the back of a three-match winning streak, which catapulted them to the top of the Senegalese Ligue 1.

Interim coach, Moussa Diatta, said the return leg will be the most crucial match.

Diatta replaced, Malick Daf, who has left the side to take charge of the Senegal Under-17 national team, after guiding them to the AFCON Under-17 finals, to be held in Morocco in March.

“Everything will be settled in a week because everything can change in a match,” said Diatta.

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