Popa’s angels anguish

George Moore

Ghetto thriller ends even

Although the build-up was blighted by confusion, with uncertainty over when and where the fixture would be played, Eleven Angels and Township Rollers made amends for the pre-match hiccups, treating fans to a thrilling encounter at a packed Old Francistown Stadium on Saturday.

In terms of history and finances, the two sides exist in different worlds.

However, there was nothing to separate David from Goliath after an absorbing 90 minutes in Ghetto, as Seemo Mpatane’s Premier League newbies held-on for a famous point in their first-ever meeting with the 16-time champions.

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The result marks the latest high for a club whose rise has brought much joy to the second city since its formation in 2010.

While Rollers newly appointed Head Coach, Sergio Daniel Moniz Traguil bemoaned his players short-comings in front of goal and was highly critical of a refereeing performance that included a 72nd minute red card for a tearful, Lebopo Moremi, Popa were ultimately undone by their defensive frailties.

With half-time looming, Saturday’s historic draw was secured courtesy of a stunning header from the excellent Ronny Leagetse, who has been a revelation in the Angels midfield since joining from Peace Makers at the start of the season.

Straining to meet Tefo Batlang’s in-swinging corner, the towering midfielder somehow found space in Rollers packed penalty area to claim his third goal of the campaign.

Alert where the defence were static, a leaping Leagetse combined power with precision to guide the ball past a helpless, Kabelo Maphakela in the Blues goal.

It was a deserved equalizer, coming in the middle of a prolonged spell of pressure for Angels, a passage of play that had the vocal home supporters singing in delight.

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Going into the game, Mpatane had stressed the importance of not conceding early.

True to their manager’s wishes, his players curbed their attacking instinct in the opening exchanges, allowing Rollers possession in their own half but pressing hard as soon as Mapalastina crossed the half-way line.

Popa's angels anguish
Match Stats

The tactics worked perfectly as Popa puffed patiently without seriously troubling Angels’ disciplined defence.

This all changed in the 22nd minute.

Pouncing on an uncharacteristic loose pass from Shanganani Ngada at left back, Segolame Boy rolled back the years, curling a delightful long range effort over the stranded keeper and into the net.

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One might have expected Rollers to take control from there but anyone who has watched Angels in the last three years will know that these youngsters have the hearts of lions – and so it proved again!

Lekgamu La Banyana rode their luck in the second-half, with goal-keeper, Tambani Bachopi pulling off two point-blank saves when Rollers really should have scored.

It was not to be for the Blue nation, Moremi’s dismissal for a lunging tackle summing up their current fortunes.

It means, three games into his reign, Traguil is yet to taste victory, overseeing a hat-trick of draws to leave his team nine points behind league leaders, Gaborone United.

The Portuguese tactician has the perfect chance to open his ‘win’ account this weekend when his Blues host struggling Holy Ghost. Winless and cut adrift at the bottom having amassed just four points from their opening 13 fixtures, the Holy Boys look destined for an immediate return to the First Division.

Should they spring a surprise against Rollers, then Traguil will find himself facing some awkward questions from Popa’s notoriously impatient hierarchy.

For Angels, the Premier League adventure continues in Molepolole, where they face relegation-threatened Mogoditshane Fighters, on a run of one point in their last five outings.

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After the excitement of playing the biggest team in the land in front of a raucous crowd, Mpatane will have to lift his troops to go again in a clash that may be lacking in glamour but could have a huge bearing on both clubs survival hopes.

HOW THEY SAW IT:

“The way we approached this game, the way we played, we pretty much held our own. We had a lot of attempts at goal; we attacked well. It took us a while to figure them out but after they scored we took over from there.

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Popa's angels anguish
SEEMO MPATANE

Second half was pretty much 50/50 and we deserved our point! Credit to both sets of fans, they helped make this a special occasion.”

“At the start, we were patient, we played good football then we scored. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we started to make some silly mistakes which gave confidence to the other team.

Popa's angels anguish
SERGIO TRAGUIL

To concede from a corner was disappointing, especially as we talked about their number 30 [Leagetse] before the game. The officiating was awful, some of the worst I’ve seen in my career – it was never a red!”

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