Giant-slaying Rollers impress in CAF battle

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Giant-slaying Rollers impress in CAF battle

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 19, 2018

    Bakang Mhaladi

    Gaborone – Botswana champions, Township Rollers, produced an assortment of heroics to dump imposing Sudanese side, Al Merreikh, out of the CAF Champions League 4-2 on aggregate.   

    Rollers were up against it the moment the draw was conducted last year but produced two gallant performances, including a 3-0 home victory over a side ranked fifth on the continent.

    The Botswana side has never gone beyond the first round but is now on the verge of reaching the money-spinning group stages where at least US$55,000 (P550,000) in prize money is guaranteed.

    Rollers face a seasoned, but not-so-intimidating campaigner, Young Africans of Tanzania. A win over 180 minutes will blast Rollers straight through to the group stages, which would be a first for any Botswana side.

    The Blues, as Rollers are known to their multitudes of followers, were given little chance when they flew out to Sudan, despite a commanding first-leg lead.

    There was a mini-scare before last Wednesday’s encounter in Omdurman, just outside the capital Khartoum. Rollers’ bus was pelted with four eggs, a pre-match warning that the hosts will score four to advance to the next stage.

    But defiant Rollers even had the temerity to take a first-half lead through striker Joel Mogorosi before a buzzing home crowd. Merreikh rallied back and won the encounter 2-1 but that was not enough to carry the Sudanese through to the next round, as Rollers moved closer to making history.

    Rollers have dominated the Botswana league and are the most successful side with 14 league titles, but have always come unstuck at continental level, failing to progress beyond the first round.

    “Al Merreikh is really a great side, and to defeat them is an epic moment. We were aggressive, we really didn’t allow them to create any chance. We went to Sudan with a clear game plan; to attack, score and then defend,” Rollers’ Serbian coach, Nikola Kavazovic, said. However, despite their heroics, Rollers might suffer fatigue ahead of their trip to Tanzania. On Monday, they played army side, BDF XI, in a league match losing 3-1 and were expected to make the long 900km round trip to Francistown, for this weekend’s Mascom Top 8 final against Orapa United on Saturday.

    They then jet out to Tanzania on Sunday and play ‘Yanga’ on Tuesday, hardly an ideal travel schedule.

    While Rollers were making the right headlines in Africa, their counterparts, Jwaneng Galaxy were easily pushed out of the CAF Confederations Cup, after a languid two-legged display against

    Mozambican side, Costa do Sol.

    Do Sol won the first leg 1-0 in Mozambique and did not have to move further gears in the return leg as they dispatched a lethargic Galaxy side by a similar score line.

    Galaxy’s debut in Africa club competition ended without much sweat, and their domestic campaign further went in tatters as they trail leaders, Rollers by nine points with 11 games left in the season.

     

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