FC Platinum exited the CAF Champions League without a win in Group B after they were beaten 2-1 by Esperance de Tunis at the Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on Saturday afternoon.
The Blood and Gold topped the pool with an unbeaten record and a haul of 14 points, while the Platinum Boys sit at the foot of the table with two points from their six matches.
Esperance got off to a great start and claimed the lead as early as the eighth minute, with Mohamed Meskini taking advantage of some sloppy play at the back from the hosts to put the ball in the back of the net.
Platinum responded well to going behind and mounted some good attacks of their own, though Esperance seemed happy to sit back and allow the Zimbabweans to make all the running – safe in the knowledge that they were solid in defence and potent enough to hurt them on the break.
The hosts created a couple of half-chances with which to test Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia, but he was not unduly troubled through the first half, which ended with the Tunisian side still 1-0 to the good.
Platinum made a change early in the second half, replacing Thomas Chidue up front with Charles Sibanda. The hosts looked much improved in attack and an equaliser duly arrived just after the hour mark, with Ali Sadiki making it 1-1.
Yet if Platinum thought they were on course for their first win in the group, they were mistaken. The Blood and Gold reclaimed the lead on 83 minutes through a speculative shot from Adem Rjaeibi which never should have gotten the better of goalkeeper Petros Mhari.
That goal proved to be enough for Esperance to claim another victory. The defending African champions move into the quarterfinals and remain one of the favourites for the 2018-19 title.
FC Platinum (0) 1 (Sadiki 63’)
Esperance de Tunis (1) 2 (Meskini 8’, Rjaeibi 83’)
Platinum: Mhari, Mhlanga, Stima, Moyo, Muduviwa, Taitamba, Pavari, Sadiki, Kutsanzira, Tigere (Mdhanga 88’), Chideu (Sibanda 50’)
Esperance: Ben Cherifia, Jebali (Mbarki 61’), Ben Mahmoud, Machani, Rabii, Fadaa, Romdhane, Meskini, Mejri (Berrima 74’), Lokosa (Rjaeibi 81’)