MASITAOKA SURVIVE TO SET-UP ROLLERS DATE
Premiership newbies, Masitaoka survived a scare against First Division North side, Calendar Stars, at the weekend, coming from a goal down to secure a dream Orange FA Cup semi-final meeting with Township Rollers.
In a hard fought, scrappy encounter on a bumpy surface at the Old Francistown Stadium, there was little to separate the two teams for much of the 90 minutes.
In the end, with the score locked at 1-1, it was a goalkeeping howler from Star’s shot-stopper, Nsala Mosinyi, who somehow let Walter Mukanga’s tame 56th minute free-kick squirm past him, that ultimately proved the difference. Mosinyi pointed to the pitch, Mukanga to the heavens; uneven ground or divine intervention – either way it was the game’s defining moment!
Second-half substitute, Emmanual Ditodi added a third with virtually the last kick of the match, his fine finish putting a 3-1 gloss on the scoreline and sending Masitaoka safely through to the last four.
However, the Nelson Olebile led Molepoloe outfit will have to improve considerably if they are to trouble Rollers in the next round.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon in the second city, fans turned up in decent numbers for their first taste of football in close to 20 months.
For Stars, the quarter-final represented a return to competitive action for the first time since the middle of March last year.
Back then, the televised 2-1 victory over Jwaneng Fighters was overshadowed by a swarm of bees that invaded the Old Stadium towards the end of the tie, forcing a 15-minute delay as players, ballboys and fans ran for cover.
This time, the late sting was to come from Ditodi.
After an understandably slow start from the undercooked underdogs, in which Mosinyi’s quick reflexes twice rescued Stars, it looked like the home supporters might be treated to an upset.
Against the run-of-play, Stars took the lead in the 10th minute in fluky fashion, the unfortunate Koketso Majafi making a terrible mess of his attempted clearance, swinging wildly at a low cross and slicing it past his keeper, Katlego Mbise, who had no chance in the Masitaoko net.
Although the linesman initially disallowed the goal for off-side, he was rightly overruled by the referee.
Pushing for an immediate response, Majatlhaga enjoyed plenty of possession without creating anything meaningful, Stars’ well-drilled five-man midfield working hard to keep their opposition at bay.
Just when it appeared the second-tier side had weathered the storm, Masitaoko struck as half-time approached.
Attacking down the right, the ball fell kindly for Oteteng Dintwa, who made no mistake from close range.
It should have been 2-1 minutes later but former Jwaneng Galaxy striker, Patrick Kaunda lacked his normal composure in front of goal, blazing over when it looked easier to score.
The miss seemed to galvanize Vincent Chikumba’s troops, who finished the half the stronger, with man-of-the-match, Yashe Dambe looking lively up front.
Inevitably, a lack of match fitness took its toll in the second half and Stars faded after Mosinyi’s mishap.
Unable to score again against a team that conceded just eight times in 18 fixtures on their way to securing last season’s First Division South title, Stars rightfully received a standing ovation at the final whistle.
Their cup dreams now dashed, Chikumba’s boys kick-off their league campaign this weekend as they look to build on last year’s 6th placed finish, starting with a trip to Mahalapye to face Santa Green.
For Masitaoka, the banana skin has been avoided. Their Orange attention now turns to Popa as they begin plotting a giant-killing of their own.
CALENDAR STARS (1) 1 MASITAOKA (1) 3
(Majafi OG 10) (Dintwa 33, Mukanga 56, Ditodi 90)
45% POSSESSION 55%
7 SHOTS 9
6 CORNERS 5
0 OFFSIDE 3
8 FOULS 20
0 0 CARDS 4 0
HOW THEY SAW IT:
“Playing on a difficult pitch against a highly motivated team was never going to be easy.
We made some mistakes and there was some miscommunication at the back when dealing with the first ball.
We did not play our best but still managed to score three goals which is a huge positive!
I don’t mind who we get in the next round. There are no weak teams left and we have earned our shot at glory.”
“The boys applied themselves well. Unfortunately we made too many mistakes but this was bound to happen as it was our first competitive game after so long.
We ran out of steam at the end but I’m proud of our performance and determination as we matched our superior opponents.
Going forward, our target is to get to the Premier League; if we are ambitious, we must aim high!”