While the rest of the continent was commemorating Day of the African Child, football lovers suspended their afternoon duties to throng to Francistown Stadium where ECCO City Greens played hosts to nemesis Mochudi Centre Chiefs in a sold-out Mascom Top 8 semi-final, first leg game.
The northern city came to a standstill for the most-anticipated tie but lack of composure from both sides saw the supporters going home without seeing a single goal.
At the end of the day, a goalless draw was not what most of the supporters expected from the game with their last meeting having produced six goals. After ECCO raided their half for the entire game, Chiefs were lucky to escape the tie with a goalless draw, thanks to poor finishing from Tendai Nyamusi, Malepa Bolelang, Lovemore Morirwa and Patrick Lenyetse.
ECCO’s midfield of Zecco Makafiri, Mmoloki Kafuko and Morirwa made life difficult for Chiefs and things stabilized a bit when the visitors brought in Elijah Montsho at the start of the second half.
Chiefs’ goalkeeper, Mompoloki Sephekolo, was at times saved by the upright as ECCO came in search of goals. ECCO’s dominance made Chiefs’ officials sitting on the northern stand uncomfortable for the entire game and they did not mince words when it comes to their technical team’s approach to the game.
ECCO coach, Atshele Molapi, is confident that his side will reach the final. This is despite the fact that his side failed to utilize home advantage on Saturday afternoon. The return leg is expected to be played at Molepolole Sports Complex in a fortnight, with ECCO knowing that they will have to convert their chances to proceed to the P1m first-prize tournament.
The score-line was not a true reflection of the game as ECCO squandered numerous scoring chances which could have seen them coming into the second leg with a comfortable margin. At the end of the day, it was Chiefs’ supporters who went home satisfied having avoided what could have been an embarrassing defeat.
“I’m not worried that we have failed to convert the chances we created. This is what I expected because two of my two players upfront (Lenyeletse and Morirwa) have just come out of injuries. We did not know what to expect from Chiefs in this game but I’m confident that we’ll beat them in the second leg. We always perform well when we’re playing away from home so I’m not worried,” said Molapi.
He said that the injuries which some of his key players suffered in their game against BDF XI the previous weekend had a negative impact on their game plan against Chiefs.
Chiefs’ coach Madinda Ndlovu said ECCO proved that they are a tough side to beat and they will have to up their game if they intend to proceed to the final.
“They (ECCO) planned well for us and it was a wake-up call to us to put an extra effort going into the second leg,” Ndlovu said.
Interestingly, this weekend Chiefs welcome ECCO City Greens in the quarterfinal of Coca-Cola Cup. The game will be played in Molepolole on Saturday.