Township Rollers braved a concerted pressure from BDF XI to win a crucial Mascom Top 8 first leg encounter and keep their dream of a league and cup double alive. The win, which ended Rollers’ four game losing streak, will now ease the pressure on the team and pacify its multitude of supporters. ‘Popa,’ as Rollers is affectionately called, dished out a professional showing to win away and place one leg into the finals of the lucrative Mascom Top 8 cup. In what was always going to be an interesting encounter between the two, both teams opted for all out attacking formations.
Rollers’ coach, Madinda Ndlovu ditched his preference for a single target man as he deployed his two target men, Jerome Louis and Jerome Ramatlhakwana upfront, with Segolame Boy and Kobamelo Kebaikanye on the wings. In the middle of the park, it was Dirang Moloi who was given a nod to partner with Lawrence Majawa with Maano Ditshupo dropping to the bench. BDF XI mentor Letang Kgengwenyane on the other hand put trust in his usual line-up, with Vincent Nzombe leading the line upfront while Kabelo Seakanyeng and Master Masitara were deployed in the wings. As was expected, the match got off to a flying start with both teams looking to get one over the other and ascertain their dominance on the proceedings. Despite the attacking riches on display at Rollers, it was the hosts BDF XI who started brighter of the two sides.
Debutant goalkeeper Noah Maposa was called into action early in the game, conceding a corner from Bonolo Phuduhudu’s ambitious overhead kick. Moments later, it was Rollers’ winger Kebaikanye who dragged a shot wide before Nzombe’s strike cannoned off the upright. Maposa then had to be alert as he saved Seakanyeng’s set piece. Midway through the first stanza, it was Rollers who broke the ice thanks to a Ramatlhakwana strike.
Having been on the defence, Rollers broke on a counter attack as Boy dribbled past the BDF defence before setting up Ramatlhakwana to put one past Takudzwa Ndoro in the BDF XI goalposts. Rollers were then forced to weather the pressure as BDF XI went in search for an equaliser, with Masitara giving Rollers defence, and Tshepo Motlhabankwe in particular a torrid time.
Despite their efforts, ‘Matebele’ could not conjure an equaliser as Rollers held on to take a one goal lead into recess. BDF XI made their intentions to find an equaliser just a few minutes from recess as they substituted Lesego Lubinda for Thato Ogopotse. From then on, it was all about BDF XI and its hunt for the elusive equaliser and Maposa had to be alert to fist Nzombe’s well taken shot over the bar. A few moments later, Matebele were at it again as Masitara’s shot fizzled wide. The men from the Mogoditshane barracks did not have to wait longer to find their equaliser as Phuduhudu scored after a melee in the Rollers defense.
With Rollers under pressure, it was time for Ndlovu to ring changes, first with Ditshupo replacing Moloi before Sekhana Koko entered the fray at the expense of Louis as Rollers sought to regain control of the proceedings.
The move gave Rollers some much needed stability and they finally regained their lead as Segolame Boy scored after the hosts failed to deal with Ncenga’s long throw into the box. Popa seemed to have found their rhythm back as they put BDF under pressure and they nearly extended their lead moments later but Ndoro saved Ramatlhakwana’s shot. Despite the Rollers resurgence, it was BDF substitute Lubinda who nearly equalised for the hosts, only for the cross bar to come to Maposa and Rollers’ rescue. Popa then saw off the game to secure a hard fought away victory and set themselves on an advantageous ground ahead of their March 13th second leg encounter.