Township Rollers coach Mark Harrison is adamant his team ‘got away with murder’ after they succumbed to a 1 ÔÇô 0 loss to Police XI in the second leg of the Mascom Top 8 tournament. Unlike the swashbuckling Rollers that thrashed Police XI a fortnight ago, Rollers players never turned up for the second leg encounter, something that Harrison was quick to point out in his post match interview. Facing a determined Police XI at the Molepolole Sports Complex this past Sunday, ‘Popa’ never really got off the blocks and was a shadow of the team that had until Sunday not tasted defeat.
“I told the players that we got away with murder because we went through to the semifinals even though we lost the game 1-nil. If that had been a league game it would have been a nightmare,” the Rollers gaffer said.
Against Police XI on Sunday afternoon, Rollers were found wanting in all departments and it was no surprise when they conceded within ten minutes from the first whistle. ‘The Jungle Kings,’ as Police XI is known, started the brighter of the two teams and got the first shot on target on the second minute courtesy of Ishmael Amponsah. Though the shot did not trouble Rollers keeper Noah Maposa, it was a statement of intent from a side that had suffered two consecutive losses to Rollers. Ten minutes into the game, Police XI were awarded a penalty after defender Simisani Mathumo was adjudged to have handled Tapiwa Gadibolae’s goal bound effort inside the box.
Katlego Masole stepped up to take the set piece and the youngster sent Noah Maposa the wrong way to give Police XI the lead. Where Police XI’s goals had sparked Rollers into action the last time, this time around ‘Popa’ seemed not to be bothered, something which Harrison attributed to a false sense of security from their big win from the two teams’ first leg encounter. Despite both teams carving a few chances, neither could convert and the game went to recess with Police XI a goal ahead. From recess, it was again Police XI who had the first real attempt at goal, with Gadibolae forcing a good save out of Maposa just three minutes from restart. Rollers thought they had pulled level on the 51st minute when Carl Finnigan hit one past Bokamoso Moeba, but their joy was cut short as the striker was adjudged offside.
Though Harrison tried to re-energise his team by throwing into the fray the duo of Sekhana Koko and Gofaone Tiro to replace Motsholetsi Sikele and Edwin Moalosi respectively, ‘Popa’ could not find their rhythm. In fact, it was Police XI who posed the biggest threat as Amponsah’s attempt at goal was deflected out for a corner. However, Rollers came close through substitute Jerome Ramatlhakwane and Tiro later on as the game entered its latter stages, but they could not level scores, and Harrison’s team suffered its first loss of the season. It was however a pyrrhic victory for Police XI as a ‘flat’ Rollers proceeded to the semifinal with a 4 ÔÇô 3 aggregate win.
“We never got going anyway on the field today; at the back, in the middle of the field, at the front, we never got going. I feel the players had a mindset that the game was done and finished from the first game. I had been warning them all week about this and I feel we let ourselves down. What let us down today was our lack of desire to go and win this game. There was a lack of passion, a lack of desire and a lack of want to win the game,” Harrison summed his charges performance on the day.
For his part, Police XI assistant coach, Maitumelo Letlamoreng said the number of goals they conceded in the first leg booted them off the Mascom Top 8 tournament. “In short, conceding a lot of goals in the first leg and failing to convert one or two chances we created today killed us. We missed at least two clear chances and had we converted them, we could have knocked Rollers out,” Letlamoreng opined.
Police XI: Bokamoso Moeba, Katlego Masole, Otlaadisa Manyika, Dikgakgamatso Kesolofetse, Poloko Khole, Louis Minjale, Tapiwa Gadibolae, Joseph Joseph, Ishmael Amponsah, Phenyo Molefe, Betsho Pius
Rollers: Noah Maposa, Tshepo Motlhabankwe, Kaone van der Westhuizen, Simisani Mathumo, Mogogi Gabonamong, Lawrence Majawa, Motsholetsi ‘Viva’ Sikele, Maano Ditshupo, Carl Finnigan, Segolame Boy, Edwin Moalosi