Today, the sleepy town of Selebi-Phikwe will be a beehive of activity as hosts Nico United welcome their hoodoo side Gaborone United (GU) in the second leg of the Mascom Top 8 semi-final at the Town Council Stadium. It is a matter of the winner takes all and it remains to be seen who will come tops at the end of the day. If the first leg which was played at the National Stadium in Gaborone is anything to go by, then soccer fanatics who are expected to fill the stadium to the rafters are in for a thrilling spectacle. Sunday Standard journalist TSHEPO MOLWANE reports.
When both sides met in the first leg on February 21, GU dominated most part of the game to register a slim 2-1 win which they are taking into today’s contest. It was Tebogo Sembowa and Benson Shilongo’s second half goals which gave the Reds an advantage but Onkabetse Mankgatai’s goal from the first leg might prove crucial for the hosts. In today’s meeting, Majombolo need a 1-0 win to proceed to the final but it is their poor record against GU which might prove to be a disadvantage. Nico United have not beaten GU in Phikwe in almost two decades but today might prove to be the right day.
Whilst Nico United coach Wesley Mondo is aware of their poor record against the visitors, he is confident that his charges are in the right mindset to turn around the tables. He told this publication on Friday morning that everyone has been hard at training in preparation for what is probably their biggest clash to date this season. “Yes, we’re aware of our not so impressive record against GU but we can’t always count on history. Records are there to be broken and we’re no different. This is going to be a different ball game altogether and the good thing is that the players do not need any motivation to rise to the occasion,” Mondo said.
After creating lots of chances which they failed to convert towards the end of their game against GU in the first leg, Mondo said they have been working on their finishing. He is keeping his fingers crossed that his players bring their scoring boots to this game. Though they need a goal to proceed, Mondo said they are bringing a lot of caution to this clash. “We’re not going to get excited and open up (at the back) just because we need a goal. We’re going out there with a lot of caution because we’re coming up against a very good side,” said the Zambian mastermind.
Nico United captain Richard Legwaila has promised their fans exciting football in this clash. “We did it against Centre Chiefs here (in the quarterfinals) and there is no doubt that we can perform the same magic against GU. We’re just one match away from the final and the mood has been fantastic. We cannot afford to slip up and I would like to urge our fans to come in large numbers to support us,” said Legwaila. It was the same Legwaila who scored a hattrick in the last 10 minutes of their quarterfinal clash against favourites Mochudi Centre Chiefs to take his side into the semis.
GU coach Rahman Gumbo said there is no special treatment for this game though they know what is at stake. “We’ve been preparing just like any other game. The good thing is that we’ve been scoring goals of late and we can take that into the return leg. What pleases me is that we’ve not struggled to win games in Phikwe. There is no need to panic and confuse players. I expect my boys to go out there and do the business,” he said. The Zimbabwean mentor has appealed to the Reds’ family to come to the copper-nickel mining town in large numbers to rally behind the team. “This is one moment where we need our fans than never before. Their support motivates the players and that’s what we need today,” he said.
GU striker Benson Shilongo hopes that their journey to Phikwe would be a fruitful one. He said their mission is to win the game and he sees nothing stopping them. “We want to play in the final and I’ve no doubt we’ll win. We’re going all out but we need to be tactical because we’re coming up against a good side,” said Shilongo. The Namibian striker has netted three goals so far in this tournament.
This is how both sides lined-up in the first leg;
Gaborone United: 32-Goitseone Phoko, 16-Thabiso Khunwane, 2-Gaopatwe Seosengyeng, 25- Gosego Gaotewe, 15-Gosegonna Molapisi, 8-Alphonse Modisaotsile, 6-Ofentse Nato, 5-Mandla Mgadla, 9-Benson Shilongo, 23-Tebogo Sembowa, 10-Kgololo Kgogobi.
Nico United: 31-Edwin Mokibe, 14-Onkabetse Seforo, 88-Kagiso Tutuwe, 2-Taboka Daniel, 5-Nelson Moreetsi, 3-Richard Legwaila, 15-Christopher Musonda, 91-Shabby Nsongamali, 6-Khumoetsile Kufigwa, 7-Mogomotsi Samson, 90-Otsile Batang.