Township Rollers came from a goal down to beat Mochudi Centre Chiefs 3 – 1 in a Mascom Top 8 semifinal game played at Francistown Sports Complex on Friday night.
Despite fielding what looked like a defensive team, Rollers showed character as they rallied from behind to clinch a win against their bitter rivals. Chiefs started the game the brighter of the two, netting a goal within the first three minutes of the game courtesy of a Tendai Nyumasi penalty. Just a minute after Chiefs keeper Raphael Nthwane saved Simisani Mathumo’s goal-bound header, Chiefs went on a swift counter attack with a brilliant run by Lesego Galenamothale.
Now unshackled from defensive duties, Galenamothale dribbled past a couple of Rollers defenders before he was appended by Mathumo in the area. Nyumasi stood up to take the penalty and slotted the ball past Kabelo Dambe’s despairing dive. Rollers should have pulled level on the 28th minute when Galagbwe Moyana’s corner found Ofentse Nato unmarked in the far post. The midfielder however sent his header wide and the Rollers’ faithful were left disappointed and yearning for an equaliser. They didn’t have to wait long as Moyana pulled Rollers level on the 37th minute through a set piece. After Thato Kebue had fouled Lawrence Majawa just outside the box, the former Chiefs midfielder was given the responsibility to take the set piece and his effort took a wicked deflection off the Chiefs wall, leaving Nthwane stranded as it nestled at the far end. The goal galvanised Rollers as they went in search of another goal and piled pressure on Magosi. The pressure paid off in referee’s added time of the first half thanks to captain Maano Ditshupo’s overhead kick. From a seemingly harmless throw in into the box by Otlaantshekela Mooketsi, the ball fell to the head of Mogorosi, who flicked it into the path of Ditshupo. The latter then hooked it over Nthwane to give Rollers a lead going into recess.
From recess, it was Chiefs who went out in search of an equaliser, but were stopped in their tracks by and unrelenting Dambe and his defiant defense. The Rollers keeper did well to save from Thireletso twice and once from Tshekiso.
Rollers gaffer Mark Harrison then rolled the dice, substituting Terrence Mandaza for Nato on the 77th minute. The striker’s impact was felt immediately, with his first touch of the ball being an assist for Gofaone Tiro to score Rollers’ third and final goal of the night. Coming at the end of a high ball, the striker flicked a header to set Tiro, who rounded off Kaelo Kgaswane before slotting past Nthwane. Popa then closed doors to see off the game and take a 3 – 1 lead going into the second leg. The win means Rollers, who were playing away, will go into the second leg with a three away goals cushion when they host Magosi in a fortnight. Speaking in a post match interview, coach Harrison said while his team had a two goal cushion, the game is far from over. “As I said this week, this game is only one of two. We are at half time now. We had given ourselves a platform to bounce into the next game, but we have not won anything yet. We will now have to finish the job in three weeks’ time,” the Rollers gaffer explained. He said overall, he was impressed with his charges grit, coming back from a goal down to win the game. We went a goal down in the first five minutes through a penalty, which you do not plan for and that put us on the back foot. But fair play and good credit to the boys, they stuck to the job and stuck to the plan. We the three goals and should have finished the job today,” he said.
Centre Chiefs: Nthwane, Othusitse Pilane, Kgaswane, Thato Kebue, Keabetswe Jenamiso, Galenamothale, Thatayaone Ramatlapeng (Senatla Molefe), Arnold Mampori, Tshekiso, Nyumasi, Tshireletso
Rollers: Dambe, Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Mogogi Gabonamong, Mathumo, Mooketsi, Majawa, Ditshupo, Nato (Mandaza), Moyana, Tiro (Sekhana Koko), Mogorosi