Botswana duo left licking wounds after early CAF exit

By Bakang Mhaladi

GABORONE – Botswana was left without a representative in CAF club competitions after its two representatives, Township Rollers and Orapa United bombed out at the first hurdle.

It was a case of so near yet so far for the two teams after Rollers beat CNaPs from Madagascar 3-2 in the CAF Champions League but still went out on the away goals rule after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate. Rollers had lost the first leg preliminary round tie 2-1 in Madagascar last week.

Orapa United stretched Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland in a Confederations Cup encounter at the dreaded Somhlolo Stadium backyard, but lost 3-2 in a pulsating encounter, meaning the Botswana side bow out 4-2 on aggregate.

Madinda Ndlovu’s Orapa had defied odds and threatened to ruin the hosts’ long unbeaten run at the Somhlolo Stadium, in Lobamba, Swaziland’s legislative capital. But after leading 2-1 deep into the second half, the hosts rallied back and won the tie 3-2.

However, it was at the National Stadium in Gaborone where thousands of Rollers fans trooped, carrying ballooning hopes of an emphatic victory.

Rollers had secured a critical away goal in Madagascar and with the quality and financial backing they have, it was an almost foregone conclusion that the home side would have a stroll in the park.

But that was not to be as CNaPs refused to be cowed and the visitors even had the temerity of taking an eighth minute lead against the run of play.

Rollers fought back and restored parity before halftime to leave the sides even at the break.

Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote’s side then surged ahead but were immediately pegged back when the Madagascans went to the other side to deposit the leveller.

Segolame Boy, at one stage a Kaizer Chiefs target, confirmed his return to form with a spectacular third, but that was just that as CNaPs snapped whatever Rollers threw at them.

Disbelieving fans remained glued to the seats long after the referee had ended the tie. Disappointment was palpable across and Mpote was immediately picked for blame.

“He took long to make substitutions and we didn’t play like a side all out for victory,” was the reaction of one fan, Baboloki Mogotsi.

Former Maritzburg United attacker, Terrence Mandaza was thrown in early in the second half for Senegalese Pap Ndaw but it took forever for Mpote to introduce former Bloemfontein Celtic winger, Joel Mogorosi and Ntesang Simanyana who were given only five minutes to swing the contest.

“We are disappointed as we desperately wanted to win. It didn’t work out as we failed to put the right numbers behind the ball. The application at the back was not there,” Mpote said.

Orapa, in contrast put up a fight and gave Swallows a scare. Coach, Ndlovu had repeatedly said Swallows were not a super team and maintained his position despite his side’s exit.

“I repeat Swallows are not a super team, they just beat us because they are more experienced otherwise they will be the first to admit we gave them a run for their money. We prepared well coming into this game, we knew we needed two away goals which we got,” he told the press in Swaziland.

The two clubs’ exit has sparked serious soul searching, particularly on the direction of Botswana football, which had appeared on the ascendancy after the national team, the Zebras booked a first ever Africa Cup of Nations qualification in 2012.

But Swallows and CNaPs provided a quick reminder of the gulf that still exists as both Madagascar and Swaziland are widely considered football lightweights.

February 2017
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