(Ngezi Platinum Stars win 5-4 on penalties)
NGEZI Platinum Stars reserve goalkeeper, Chang Marioni, made a triumphant debut after two years of waiting as he helped the miners progress to the Chibuku Super Cup semi-finals following their penalty shootout victory at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
With their Number One goalie, Nelson Chadya, on national duty, the Mhondoro team turned to the burly shot stopper and he didn’t disappoint in a match they were outplayed by their hosts.
The former Triangle keeper was one of the main reasons the match finished goalless in regulation time as the Students relentlessly bombarded their visitors throughout the 90 minutes.
But he responded with fine saves, including two point-blank ones in quick succession in the second half.
He also carried the team over the line when thwarting Ali Maliselo’s effort in the penalty shootout.
Ngezi Platinum converted all their five kicks through Kudzai Chigwida, Malvin Gaki, Nigel Makumbe, Takunda Benhura and Valentine Kadonzvo, while Peter Chota, Clemence Gobvu, Brighton Majarira and William Kapumha found the target for Herentals.
“I was waiting for my chance all along and I am happy to have finally made my debut in a special way,” said Marioni.
“Herentals is our bogey side. They are fighters and they have dominated us in recent years. Our coach Takesure Chiragwi told us that we need to fight if we are to win against Herentals.
“We carried that mentality into the match and the work ethic on the part of everyone carried us through. I am very happy we managed to progress to the last four,” he said.
It was sweet revenge for Ngezi Platinum, who were eliminated at the same stage by Herentals last season.
Yet it was Herentals who bossed both the ball and territory and should have easily won this tie.
Blessing Majarira, Prince Chama, who had to be ferried to hospital after sustaining an injury 25 minutes into the game. Kapumha and Chota all came close to scoring in the opening half.
Although Ngezi Platinum absorbed much of the pressure for the better part of the first stanza, Herentals were relentless and they should have scored 15 minutes before time, but Marioni denied Majarira and Tafadzwa Jim from point blank range.
With Tino Benza and Davison Maruwa, who were just on time to make the team after playing for the Warriors against Botswana on Saturday thrust into action, Herentals threw everything in attack, but Marioni was in top form.