For a fleeting moment, Township Rollers flattered to deceive. As early as the first half of their encounter against Police XI, it seemed Rollers had their invincibility cloak on, that is until Police’s Ghanaian marksman Emmanuel Amponsah’s second half brace. In a game played in the searing heat at the Molepolole Sports Complex, it was Rollers who started the game well. Though giving new defensive signing Tshepo Motlhabankwe a debut appearance for this encounter, Rollers’ mentor Madinda Ndlovu stuck with the team that had done duty for him before recess and it seemed to work just fine.
Despite the energy sapping heat, it was ‘Popa,’ as Rollers is affectionately called, who took the lead with a well crafted goal in the 12th minute, thanks to midfielder Maano Ditshupo. Receiving a pass in the middle of the park, the Rollers’ skipper flicked a delightful chip over the head of an advancing Police XI defender to find Motsholetsi Sikele on the right wing. While skillful Sikele then carried the ball forth, Ditshupo continued his run towards the Police XI goal and Sikele reciprocated, passing the ball back to his captain to fire past Bokamoso Moeba to give Rollers a well deserved lead.
The goal seemed to give Rollers an impetus and they should have extended their lead two minutes later when Segolame Boy’s goal bound header from a well taken corner was cleared off the line by Police XI captain Betsho Pius with Moeba well beaten. Police XI would then have an effort on target in the 33rd minute when Boitumelo Modisaotsile’s well taken set piece fisted by Mwampule Masule in between Rollers’ sticks. But that was as good as it got for ‘The Jungle Kings’ in the first half and Rollers should have extended their lead four minutes later, only for Obonye Moswate to see his free header fly harmlessly over the bar.
Rollers’ missed chances would then come back to haunt them in the second half as Police XI came back strongly to pin them back. While Masule had had an easy day between the goalposts in the first half, he had a torrid time between the sticks in the second stanza as Police probed him. The Jungle Kings thought they had leveled matters as early as the 2nd minute of the first half, only for their effort to be ruled offside. The pressure on Masule nearly paid off nine minutes later when the Rollers keeper fluffed a routine catch, only for the goal to be ruled offside yet again. Police XI then leveled in fortuitous circumstances in the 27th minute as Masule gifted them an equaliser, diverting a well hit Amponsah cross into his own net.
The goal silenced the vociferous Popa supporters and seemed to galvanise Police XI and they duly got their winning goal four minutes thereafter. If Amponsah’s first goal was fortuitous, his second was, as Rollers’ mentor Madinda Ndlovu described after the match, ‘a beautiful and deserving match winning strike.’ Given space outside the box, the Ghanaian marksman blasted a ferocious volley past Masule to cut short Popa’s unbeaten league run. While Rollers went out in search of an equaliser, even hitting the top post with substitute Sekhana Koko’s header, it was too little too late as Police XI claimed all the points. In his post match interview, Rollers mentor, Ndlovu said ‘it is now game on for the league title, adding that the loss ‘was a wakeup call to his charges to make their chances count.’ He said the focus will now be on ensuring the team bounces back from the setback. For his part, Police XI coach Maitumelo Letlaamoreng expressed gratitude at how his players responded to his pep talk during recess.
“Because we went into recess just a goal down, I told them we are still in the game and should just try find an equaliser. Once we get it, we would then search for a winner and they responded positively,” the Police XI mentor said. Rollers’ loss means their lead over Mochudi Centre Chiefs at the top of the beMobile Premier League log summit is cut to just three points, while Police move one step up into position seven in the log standings.