The stakes were high on a freezing Saturday night when two of the country’s football heavyweights, Township Rollers and Gaborone United (GU) clashed in the Mascom Top 8 finals at the National Stadium.
The hotly contested affair, which also doubled as a Gaborone derby, ended with a 2-1 score and a second Top 8 win in favour of GU. The win also gave the Reds the city’s bragging rights while Rollers seems to be headed for a trophy-less season. The Reds won their first Top 8 title two years ago after beating BDF XI in the final at Lobatse Stadium.
For their hard work, GU were rewarded with P1 million and they will represent the country in the CAF Confederations Cup next year. With the League title seemingly out of reach for the two sides, the Top 8 final provided the traditional rivals with a chance to make their fans smile. In front of a capacity crowd of cheering fans who had braved the chilly weather, GU took control of the game from the first whistle as they controlled proceedings in the middle of the park. The Reds had a better game plan as they neutralized Rollers’ most dangerous men, Segolame Boy and Dirang Moloi. The latter was even substituted in the second stanza and he immediately headed for the dressing room.
After a goalless first half, Rollers were first off the mark when Kobamelo Kebaikanye rattled the net in the 61st minute to send thousands of Rollers’ fans into a wild frenzy. But their celebrations were short-lived as GU substitute Ntesang ‘Mirror’ Simanyana levelled matters two minutes later. The Reds put the match beyond their rivals’ reach when Namibian striker Benson Shilongo converted from the spot in the 75th minute. This was after Obonye Moswate was adjudged by referee Lekgotla Johannes to have fouled Kgololo Kgogobi inside the box. Mapalastina’s efforts to get back into the game proved futile as the Reds kept them at bay.
GU head coach Rahman Gumbo could not hide his excitement after the game; “I’m very happy for the win and we had to do it for everyone. It was a tense game and very tactical but in the end we were the better side. I’ve no words to express my feelings.” The Zimbabwean mastermind also poured credits on his players for their fighting spirit on the night. Young goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko was once again on a class of his own as he made a number of crucial saves that guaranteed GU a win, and it came as no surprise when he was voted man of the match. The 19 year old goalkeeper credited his trainer Thabo Motang for his sterling performance. “I’m very happy that we’ve won the cup. Credit has to go to my coach because we’ve worked hard and that has paid off,” he said.
Phoko’s exploits in the tournament have set him as a clear favourite to win the player of the series and goalkeeper of the series awards. Though he admitted that both teams put up a good show on the night, Rollers’ coach Madinda Ndlovu was not impressed with the performance of the middle man, Lekgotla Johannes.
“The man in charge decided that the game must end with a penalty. This was a high calibre game that should have been decided by goals coming from good football,” he said.
It was a second successive loss for Mapalastina in the Top 8 final, after their defeat by BDF XI in last year’s edition.
Township Rollers: Noah Maposa, Obonye Moswate, Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Oscar Ncenga, Simisani Mathumo, Lawrence Majawa, Dirang Moloi, Sekhana Koko, Jerome Louis, Segolame Boy, Kobamelo Kebaikanye.
Gaborone United: Goitseone Phoko, Gaopatwe Seosenyeng, Gosegonna Molapisi, Thabiso Khunwane, Willie Gaotewe, Ofentse Nato, Alphonse Modisaotsile, Mpho Kgaswane, Benson Shilongo, Tendai Nyamadzawo, Edwin Olerile.