Township Rollers kicked off their Mascom Top 8 title defence with a 1-0 win over tournament debutants, Black Forest in the first leg played at the Molepolole Sports Complex on Friday evening.
Popa made five changes to the lineup that started in a mid-week CAF Champions League clash against Bantu FC with Kamogelo Matsabu and Keeagile Kgosipula getting their first starts of the season.
Popa enjoyed majority of ball possession inside the first 15 minutes and came close on the 11th minute with Matsabu crossing for Joel Mogorosi who headed over the bar.
Four minutes later, Matsabu went for goal himself but his effort went wide. In the 22nd minute, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe delivered a good set piece which Mosha Gaolaolwe rose highest to head but his effort also went wide.
Two minutes later, Mogorosi was granted a free header inside the box, but could not direct his effort goal wards. The Blues were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute after Tiro Pheresi handled the ball inside the box. Mogorosi stepped up, but his effort was saved by Gofaone Selapa.
Forest’s first real chance at goal came with four minutes to the break when Donald Botshoma found himself in good space but his effort went over the bar. Five minutes after the break, Gobona Ramotlhwa was left unmarked at the edge of the box, but was let down by his finishing. Popa broke the
The goal was the winger’s first in Popa colours. Four minutes later, Tshireletso delivered yet another cross for Tumisang Orebonye who missed the target.
Popa continued to dominate proceedings but could not increase the score line. In the 85th minute, Tshireletso found Bogosi Nfila with a through ball but his effort went wide. Two minutes later, the goalkeeper had to pull a double-fisted save to deny Segolame Boy free kick.
“We played well but we were let down by poor marking. We could not defend a cross ball into the box. We had a good approach to the game, what is left now is to correct the mistakes in the second leg,” Forest coach, Reetsang Letlole said after the game. His counterpart, Rollers’ Thabo Motang bemoaned wasted opportunities but was happy to get a win from the game.
Rollers: Kgosipula, Jackson Lesole, Gaolaolwe, Kaone van der Westhuizen, Ditlhokwe (Tshepo Motlhabankwe), Ivan Ntenge, Boy, Tshireletso, Galabye Moyana (Nfila), Matsabu, Mogorosi (Orebonye)
Forest: Itumeleng Pheresi, Tiro Pheresi, Mogomotsi Kerebotswe, Basiamisi Sebapalo, Kerapetse Mosimanekgosi, Koketso Majafi, Maikano Maikano, Thabo Ngada (Thobo Gaboduelwe), Botshoma, Katlego Mmolotsi, Ramotlhwa
Rollers 1 (Matsabu 62nd)