Township Rollers continued their quest to defend their beMobile League championship this week with a 2-1 defeat of NICO United.
The win sees ‘Popa,’ as Rollers is affectionately known usurp the league leadership from fellow contenders BMC with whom they are tied for the top spot with 21 points each, with ‘Popa’ just edging them on a better goal difference.
In a weekend action that saw other league contenders being held to draws, ‘Popa’ were the biggest winners as their defeat of NICO saw them move two positions up to occupy the top spot.
While the climb to the league log summit brought elation for the team’s faithful followers, it was not so much of an easy afternoon for the team’s supporters, all mainly the Rollers’ own doing.
While Rollers dominated proceedings for the majority of the game and created chance after chance, the team failed to convert, something which kept their supporters on the edge throughout the game.
After an edgy start by both teams, it was NICO who registered the first shot at goal in the 6th minute through Khumoetsile Kufigwa. From then on, it was all Rollers and the team should have taken the lead in the 11th minute when Jerome Louis was set on path to goal.
The striker however opted to pull the ball back to his striking partner Manqoba Ngwenya when it seemed easier to score and the chance went begging. The duo would however made amends in the 17th minute when after receiving the ball on the edge of the area, Ngwenya sent a well weighed pass to Louis, who threaded it to Kebaikanye. The winger then beat his marker and squeezed the ball past Segakolodi Ntima to give his team a much deserved lead.
The goal sent ‘Popa’ faithful into ecstatic frenzy but their joy was nearly cut short four minutes later when Gift Moyo, who was proving a thorn in the Rollers defence, masterminded a way past the napping Rollers defence, only for Rollers’ keeper Michael Pepukani and defender Simisani Mathumo to combine and conceded a corner.
The near equalizer woke Rollers from their slumber as they once again went on the attack.
Ntima was the busier of the two goalkeepers as he denied the marauding Rollers attackers, first fisting a fierce drive from Kebaikanye’s set piece before saving Louis’ header in the 32nd minute.
Rollers should have increased their goal tally three minutes later when Sikele eliminated the whole NICO defence only for Maano Ditshupo to balloon his shot over the bar when a simple tap in would have done the trick.
Popa’s wastefulness in front of goal continued a minute later as Louis saw his shot whiz past the upright. Rollers were made to rue their profligacy in the last minute of referees’ optional time in the first half when Moyo’s well taken set piece found the back of the net to ensure both teams went to recess tied at a goal apiece.
From recess, NICO suffered major setbacks as they suffered a host of injuries which resulted in two of their most influential players, Moyo and Kufigwa, being substituted. Rollers’ response was to bring on Segolame Boy for the tiring Ngwenya just 13 minutes after recess and the move nearly paid dividends in the 17th minute when the youngster turned his man inside out but his shot was saved by Ntima.
As was the case in the first half, it was all Rollers again but their profligacy in front of goal continued to haunt them, first with Sikele being denied by Ntima before he again headed wide after a good cross from Kebaikanye.
The latter would then see his shot beat Ntima and the onrushing Louis as Rollers cranked on the pressure. The introduction of Boy seemed to have freed Sikele and their combination with Louis and Kebaikanye tore the NICO defence to pieces.
Rollers duly found their goal in the 33rd minute when Sikele teed up Boy to hit a shot beneath the diving Ntima.
Rollers should have got their security goal four minutes later when the duo combined to set Obonye Moswate on goal but the latter shot wide at goal.
Popa were on the ascent and sought to finish the game on a high with the duo of Boy and Sikele at the centre of everything good about Rollers’ attack. Despite their best attempts, Popa could not score any further and they duly saw out the game to continue their lossless streak in the league.