Township Rollers have one leg in the Mascom Top8 final after a ruthless display against BDF XI at the Royal Aria Stadium on Saturday.
Popa ran out convincing 3-1 winners in the first-leg of their semi-final clash with a BDF XI side that looked short of ideas and struggled to get out of first gear.
A Tumisang Orebonye penalty, Edwin Moalosi’s deflected strike and a late tap-in from substitute Motsholetsi Sikele had given the two-time winners a commanding three-goal advantage.
However, the Army Boys breathed unexpected life back into the tie, breaching Rollers well-drilled defence in the 88th minute courtesy of Oratile Taunyane’s perfectly placed header.
It leaves the semi-final intriguingly poised, with Rollers taking a two-goal lead into the second leg. Having blown a similar lead against Gaborone United at the same stage last year, Popa will be wary of slipping up again.
The game also gave Rollers fans a first glimpse of their exciting new signing, Francis Afriyie, who came on as a 70th minute substitute. Although the Ghanaian’s first touch let him down on a number of occasions – much to the annoyance of Popa’s passionate supporters – he showed enough skill to suggest he could be a big player for Rollers in the months to come.
After the game, BDF XI mentor Letang Kgengwenyane insisted there is still much to play for.
“We are not under pressure because anything can happen at the second-leg, we believe we can overturn this result. From here, we are going back to the drawing board and will see where we went wrong so that we rectify our mistakes,” he told Voice Sport.
Unsurprisingly Kgengwenyane’s opposite number, Frank Nuttal, was all smiles in his post-match interview. The Scot has enjoyed a dream start to his time at Rollers, following up a 7-0 league thumping of Police XI in his first game in charge with the dismantling of BDF XI.
“I am happy because the boys executed my plan well. However, we should not get carried away because we still have the second-leg to play and that is when we can be delighted to have qualified for the final!” said Nuttal, who is fast becoming a cult hero amongst the Popa faithful.