Top 8 to sort diamond boys from city slickers
With the tie poised on a knife-edge at 2-2, Township Rollers and Jwaneng Galaxy will face off for the second time in six days this Friday.
Up for grabs is a place in the Mascom Top 8 final – a tournament that both clubs are vying to win for the second time.
In an enthralling first-leg, in which the momentum swung one way and then the other, Galaxy took an early lead, were behind by half-time and then scored a late equaliser.
It means both teams are agonisingly close to the final but equally, both are teetering on the brink of elimination – such is the precarious nature of the two-legged tie!
Having scored two away goals (the game was played in Lobatse but counted as Galaxy’s home game – much to the diamond town’s displeasure) Rollers go into Friday’s encounter with a slight advantage.
It means that a 0-0 or 1-1 draw would be enough for Popa to progress to a fixture they have appeared in four times but only won once, when they beat Ecco City Greens 3-1 in 2012.
However, despite Mapalastina’s recent domestic dominance, the club’s head coach, Nikola Kavazovic insists that Galaxy will start the game as favourites.
The Serbian tactician reasoned that Jwaneng’s superior Top 8 record – they are the defending champions, having won the cup competition in their maiden appearance – gives them an edge over his team.
“They are a strong opponent and we have prepared thoroughly for the game. This will be a totally new game all together; we both stand a strong chance,” was Kavazovic’s philosophical assessment of the semi-final second leg.
Rollers will have to make do without their talismanic midfielder, Segolame Boy, who has failed to recover from an injury he picked up in the first-leg.
Boy supplied the assist for Popa’s second goal in the opening game and has been a key factor in the Blues success this season. His absence, although Kavazovic wouldn’t admit it, will come as a blow to a Rollers side that are already missing suspended duo Joel Mogorosi and Mthokozisi Msomi.
Choosing to view Boy’s absence as an opportunity for someone else to impress, Rollers’ coach told Voice Sport, “Segolame will not be part of this game due to injury. I believe the player who replaces him will want to prove his capabilities.”
Rollers were knocked out of the cup at this stage last season – losing 4-1 on aggregate to Orapa United – they will be desperate to avoid that happening again.
For his part, Kavazovic’s counterpart at Jwaneng, Matshidiso Moseki vowed to ‘fight with all he has’ to ensure his team overcome Rollers.
Moseki attributed both of Popa’s first-leg goals to defensive errors from his boys. He is convinced that if Galaxy tighten up at the back they will emerge victorious on Friday.
Reflecting on the first battle, Moseki said, “From our past game, Rollers were not that creative to post any threat.
“The mistake we made was to lose the ball in dangerous areas. The first goal our defender missed the ball and Sikele (Motsholetsi) scored it and the second one was a corner kick which was poorly defended and Mosha Gaolaolwe scored through a header.”
A supremely confident Moseki believes that Galaxy’s destiny is firmly in their own hands.
“We have top quality players who can match our opponents. If my boys can execute our plan accordingly we will go through to the final,” he said, adding that scoring an early goal would be crucial and would also help silence the vocal support Rollers will receive at the National Stadium.
Galaxy centre back Tebogo Sosome is available for selection again after a spell out injured but their Zimbabwean forward Patrick Kaunda is suspended after picking up a booking in the first-leg.
The other semi-final sees Orapa United lock horns with two-time cup winners Gaborone United on Saturday. The Ostriches, who have made the last two finals, beating Rollers 3-1 in 2016 and then losing 4-3 to Jwaneng last season, take a slender 1-0 lead into the game courtesy of Omaatla Kebatho’s 29th minute header.
Both fixtures could still go either way, all four teams are very much in the hunt for the P1.3million prize money.