Joel Mogorosi's solitary strike was the difference as Township Rollers beat visiting Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in an international club friendly match played at the National Stadium on Saturday evening.
The game had to be moved to a late kick-off rather than the scheduled 3pm kick-off, as the visitors were delayed at the border post by immigration officers with issues relating to their travelling documents.
The delayed kick-off seemed to have affected the tickets sale as only a handful of supporters braved the cold night to watch the game.
On the pitch, both teams were rather cautious in the first 10 minutes with neither showing their intentions.
The first shot on target came on the quarter hour mark with Motsholetsi Sikele’s rather weak shot, handled by Kennedy Mweene.
Popa, who looked the better of the two teams, took the lead in the 37th-minute, Mogorosi received a long ball from the back, turned and beat Mweene to the bottom corner. The shot was the attempt at goal of the half as the host took a 1-0 lead into the break.
After the break, the visitors dominated most of the ball possession, but still failed to break the resilient Rollers’ defence. Sibusiso Vilakazi tried from a long range on the hour mark, but Kgosipula saved his attempt.
Rollers were forced into making substitutions as Ivan Ntenge and new signee, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe went down with muscle pulls, Tshepo Motlhabankwe and Galagwe Moyana replaced them respectively.
In the 78th-minute, substitute Mothusi Cooper combined well with Tumisang Orebonye, but Mweene saved the former’s shot for a corner. With neither managing to hit the net in the second half, Popa won by a slim margin.
Rollers coach, Nikola Kavazovic was a pleased man after the game. He said his side is gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with in the continent.
“It is good to say you beat Mamelodi Sundowns, the former African champions,” Kavazovic said, “….but we must be honest, this is not Sundowns at their strongest; they have just come back from the off-season and are still working on getting to their right level. But we are also not yet at full strength. This win will send a message that we are a growing force in Southern Africa. Last year (in Francistown) we came close to defeating Kaizer Chiefs, but they equalised late. Now we have managed the win tonight. But what is important was to prepare how we are going to face Al-Ahly in Alexandria (Egypt), and I was happy with the way we kept our shape,” he said.
“It is a game we could have won, but we have to give them a chance, we give them the credit. We were not up to strength, we were not up to speed, I think you know today’s story (delay at the border gate) but that’s not an excuse,” Sundowns coach, Pitso Mosimane said after the game.
Rollers: Keeagile Kgosipula, Ivan Ntenge (Tshepo Motlhabankwe), Obuile Ncenga, Simisane Mathumo, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe (Galagwe Moyana), Mosha Gaolaolwe, Maano Ditshupo (Ofentse Nato), Gape Mohutsiwa (Mothusi Cooper), Motsholetsi Sikele (Kamogelo Motsabu), Boyo Lechaena (Gabriel Nyoni), Joel Mogorosi (Tumisang Orebonye)
Sundowns: Kennedy Mweene, Thapelo Morena, Ricardo Nascimento, Wayne Arendse (Motjeka Madisha), Tebogo Langerman, Tiyani Mabunda (Oupa Manyisa), Hlompho Kekana (Lucky Mohomi), Themba Zwane, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Ali Meza, Gaston Siniro (Cuthbert Malajila).
Rollers 1 (Mogorosi 37th)