History made as Rollers march to CAF Group stages

17th March 2018
BOSSY BOY: Township Rollers' nimble-footed Segolame Boy was a thorn on the Yanga defenders Source:KABELO GADISE


By Joe-Brown -

Township Rollers made history as they became the first Botswana side to book a place in the group stages of the CAF Champions League following a goalless draw with Tanzanian champions Young Africans (Yanga) at a second leg match played at a packed National Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Rollers came into the reverse fixture leading 2-1 from their shock victory in Yanga's home ground a fortnight ago in Tanzania.

To win the tie and proceed to the next stage, Rollers needed a draw or for Yanga to win with a margin of one goal but with no more than two goals to their credit. Rollers achieved that as the Saturday result meant they proceed via a 2-1 aggregate score, ensuring they enter a gruelling stage where they will play six more matches in the competition across the continent against possible opponents in the mould of former champions TP Mazembe, Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns a ong others.

Rollers' captain Maano Ditshupo was ecstatic after the match, praising and giving gratitude to the multitudes of people who thronged the stadium to give them support. "They drove us, we had to fight hard not to disappoint them as they really gave us the necessary motivation," he said after the match. Ditshupo added that they had achieved everything they had set out to achieve this season having vowed to win the Top 8 championship, and now entering the group stages of the champions league.

Similarly excited was the experienced Tshepo Talkie Motlhabankwe who described the victory as the best birthday present he could ever get. "Throughout the week I pushed my teammates, reminding them that March 17 is my birthday and that they have to ensure I enjoy my day," Motlhabankwe said, adding that playing the group stages will give them more experience that will rub positively on the development of Botswana football. After the match, the Rollers players showered Motlhabankwe with all manner of confetti, ranging from potato chips to water, to mark their excitement for getting what he had called for.

Rollers will know their group stage opponents on Wednesday next week when the the draw will be conducted in Cairo. The group stages carry a minimum prize money of around P5 million. In the Saturday match, Rollers dominated proceedings from the start, bouyoed by the over 20 000 supporters who cut across the Botswana club divide. Yanga never really threatened the Rollers' defence despite beefing up their team with five players who did not play in the first leg. Rollers' goalkeeper Keeagile Kgosipula had a lonely match where he saw very little action on the day as his defence kept their opponents at bay. It was only in the 70th minute that Yanga threatened to score with their player Odrey Chirwa firing wide from close range when he only had Kgosipula to beat.

Ahead of the match on Friday, Rollers head coach Nikola Kavazovic had talked of the importance of the match, saying a positive result could ensure the local game gets to be tested against established continental giants.

“We are now definitely among the 20 best teams in Africa, we have defeated a top side in Al-Merreikh and in the first round we showed confidence in our game in Tanzania. I believe we deserve a place in the group stages and we will work for it. Yanga are African giants and we are still a developing team, but I believe we are now favourites to go through,” Kavazovic said.

“I am very proud of my players,” he added. “Whatever happens on Saturday, we have already done a lot, more than what was expected, more than what was achieved in the previous seasons. The second goal in the first leg against Yanga showed our model of play, our trademark. That goal was not just good by African standards…even by international, world standards it was good, 21 completed passes, one minute 40 seconds without Yanga having the ball and we scored. We will keep to our style,” Kavazovic added.

Yanga's Assistant Coach Noel Mwandila had expressed confidence on Friday, that his Tanzanian side would prevail, owing to performances back at home. ‬
“After the Rollers game in Tanzania we played two league games where we scored three goals in each match, so I believe we have overcome the problem of not converting goals in the first leg. We will have one or two players not being available, but we also have our captain who did not feature in the first leg who is now available,” Mwandila said. However, things did not go according to plan for Yanga as Rollers bullied them throughout the match, with the likes of Joel Mogorosi, Mosha Gaolaolwe and Lemponye Tshireletso squandering clear chances.

Rollers had made two changes from their 2-1 first leg win over Yanga in Dar es Salaam with Edwin Moalosi and Edwin Olerile coming in for Kaone Vanderwesthuizen and the injured Mthokozisi Msomi. Other players who featured for Rollers include Simisani Mathumo, Motsholetsi Sikele and Segolame Boy.

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