When he walked into the FNB Stadium Auditorium to field questions from journalists after his charges went down 2-1 to hosts Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, Township Rollers’ head coach Madinda Ndlovu was a relaxed man.
Clad in a white shirt and brown trousers, Ndlovu, seated at the top table between Chiefs’ head coach Stuart Baxter and communications manager Vina Maphosa, casually fielded questions on his club’s performance in the CAF Champions League preliminary match. Though he was disappointed that Rollers conceded a goal in the 93rd minute, the Zimbabwean gaffer said he was proud of his troops and expressed confidence that they will be ready to send Chiefs tumbling out of the tournament in the return leg a fortnight from now.
Rollers host Chiefs at the National Stadium on February 28 and they need a 1-0 win to progress to the first round proper.┬á Rollers made their doubters eat humble pie as they pushed Amakhosi to the end, defying football pundits who had predicted that Chiefs would bury them in an avalanche of goals. After all, it was not a bad Valentine’s Day for hordes of Mapalastina fans who travelled to South Africa to cheer their stars.
┬á“I’m not mad about the defeat; it was a learning curve for us. We were careful in our approach because we were playing against a very good team. There was no way we could have gone forward in numbers because Chiefs would have crucified us,” he said.
Ndlovu, who returned to the Rollers’ dug out on the night after a two week absence, said his charges gave Chiefs too much respect in the first half because of stage fright.
“We started the second half well and scored the important away goal. We created chances and we should have converted, but in the end we didn’t. It’s a bit sore to concede a goal through a set play in the dying minutes but we’ll take that as a learning curve. My boys now know Kaizer Chiefs and we’ll be ready for them in the second leg,” he said.
For his part, Chiefs’ coach Stuart Baxter also showered Rollers with praises, saying they are not a mickey-mouse side and they deserve all the respect in the return leg. Many Chiefs’ fans thought their side would finish off the tie at the FNB Stadium and take a second string squad to Gaborone.
“We started well and created chances but there was no focus. We gave away too much possession in the midfield and we got punished for that. It was the first time I saw us giving away the ball so easily. Rollers came back in the second half and scored a goal which made us now chase the game,” said Baxter.
Chiefs started the game strongly and opened the score line through the run of play in the sixth minute when Matthew Rusike hammered home a low shot which gave Rollers’ goalkeeper Mwampole Masule no chance.
Rollers equalized just after the break when Segolame Boy took advantage of Chiefs’ defensive mix-up to send thousands of Rollers fans seated on the eastern side into raptures. With the match headed for a 1-1 score line and the travelling fans dancing up and down in joy, disaster struck in the 93rd minute. Masule conceded an unnecessary corner and captain Tefu Mashamaite headed home from close range to give his side the advantage.
“We scored a goal in a critical phase, we always say it takes a second to score a goal and it happened,” concluded Baxter. Tickets for the return leg are already on sale at CA Sales in Gaborone. Grand stands cost P200 while Pandamatenga stand is charged P100. The north and southern stands are charged P75. Rollers’ chairman Jagdish Shah has called on the football fraternity to come and rally behind Mapalastina in large numbers on February 28. “I’m appealing to the football fraternity to buy the tickets on time. The boys would need lots of support for them to do well,” said Shah.