National champions Township Rollers bombed out of the CAF Champions League when they were beaten 1-0 by visiting South African side Kaizer Chiefs before an electrifying atmosphere at the National Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Chiefs proceeded through a 3-1 aggregate to set up a date with Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca.
Despite the loss, Rollers gave a good account of themselves over the two matches. At the weekend, Rollers needed a 1-0 win to progress but their task was made more difficult when the visitors scored in the opening 30 minutes of the game. Rollers’ defenders failed to clear the lines in the 27th minute and midfielder Siyabonga Nkosi was quick to respond to hammer the ball past the hapless Mwampule Masule. Mapalastina had chances to find the back of the net but just like in the first leg, they failed utilise their chances.
In the opening stanza, the hosts came with a cagey approach when they defended in numbers. Chiefs showed character and grit to overpower the hosts. Rollers started to play with confidence in the second half after the technical team introduced Manqoba Ngwenya who showed some brilliant touches when in possession. But despite the efforts, he found Chiefs’ defence in an uncompromising mood. Star midfielder Segolame Boy was not allowed to control the proceedings like he did during the first leg. In a post-match interview, Rollers’ captain Maano Ditshupo said, “we tried everything to win the game but Chiefs’ experience worked for them. Our plan was to score early but they managed to frustrate our efforts. The coach told us to guard against conceding but they managed to break us.”
Ditshupo pointed out that pep talk helped them a great deal. “The coach told us to go out there to enjoy ourselves since our plan had fallen through. I think the experience we got from playing against Chiefs will go a long way in helping us,” he said. Ditshupo applauded thousands of Batswana who came to the stadium in large numbers to rally behind the team. He said now they are shifting their attention to the local programme. Rollers are third on the log with 40 points and they are also in the semi finals of the Mascom Top 8. “It is very important for us to concentrate fully on the League and Top 8. We cannot afford to end the season empty-handed.
I think the experience we gained from the Champions League will come handy,” he added. Rollers’ head coach Madinda Ndlovu said his side matched the opposition pound to pound but in the end it was not enough to secure a place in the next round. Kaizer Chiefs’ head coach Stuart Baxter was glad that his side managed to book a date with Raja Casablanca. But he was critical of the National Stadium turf saying that it made life difficult for his players to express themselves well. “We should have done a better job in the first leg, you come here and you look at the pitch, you say well it is a lottery,” said Baxter.