Township Rollers started their 2022/23 Premier League season campaign with a 2 – 0 win over Mogoditshane Fighters this past Sunday afternoon.
It was also coach Thabo ‘Mahala’ Motang’s first stint as the team’s fulltime coach, having taken over the reigns following the departure of Romain Folz. While Motang’s Rollers pocketed all the points and kept a clean sheet, it is apparent the team still has a lot of work to do to win over skeptics.
Against a hapless Fighters who had not trained well due to internal problems, Rollers failed to convince. Despite some neat passing and dominating the game, Popa found it difficult to break a stubborn Fighters who had set out to defend.
All this was despite Rollers boasting of the creative talents of Mogakolodi Ngele and Segolame Boy. While the pair did not light the field as could have been expected, perhaps due to this being their first game of the season, they however showed some glimpses of their potential combination.
“The league is a marathon. We have a new coach in Motang as he previously served as an assistant coach and goalkeeper coach. He has come with a new playing system and we are still trying to get used to it. I believe it is still early in the season and as a team we will adjust,” Ngele said.
Rollers’ early struggles to score in open play were apparent as both of the team’s goals came through set pieces. Rollers’ first goal came six minutes from recess when towering defender Simisani Mathumo powered a header into the net from a well taken Ngele set piece. Their second goal would come deep in the second half when Phenyo Serameng tapped in another of Ngele’s trademark set pieces.
For Motang, the two goals and a clean sheet were important as the team started the league season on a positive note. “We managed to get goals. We managed to defend, which is what is needed in football. I am impressed,” Motang said in a post-match interview.
The Rollers gaffer said looking at how Fighters set out to play, which was to sit in front of goal and deny Rollers chances at goal, his charges did well. “If you look at Fighters, they did not give us a chance to penetrate. They allowed us to play, but they stood in front of goal where it matters most.”
To their credit, Rollers were patient and when opportunity availed itself in the form of set pieces, they capitalized to get a crucial win. “I am happy that at least we managed to get those two goals and three points,” Motang said.
At the other end of the spectrum, Fighters’ losing coach Nelson Olebile expressed satisfaction with how his team fared against Rollers. Ahead of the game, Fighters had gone about seven days without training due to off the pitch problems.
“Looking at where we are coming from, for these boys to come here and give me this performance, I am very happy with how they performed,” Olebile said. For the coach, even more impressive was the fact that his charges played according to plan.
For the Fighters gaffer, the plan was to ‘close at the back’ and not give Rollers a chance at goal. “We knew we had to be compact on our last third and deny them those half spaces that they might try to create, which I think my boys did very well,” he observed. Olebile said given that his team only lost on set play to a team of the calibre of Rollers, he was impressed. He said they will take the loss as a lesson which they will use in their upcoming games.