The odds are stacked against Township Rollers in their dream debut in the CAF Champions league, having just lost 0-3 against former serial champions Al Ahly in Alexandria, Egypt this past Tuesday and thereby dropping to the bottom of the group log.
The two teams are expected to meet again at the National Stadium in a week's time and nothing much is expected to change as Ahly are already the fvourites. Nevertheless, Popa owe their supporters a consolation goal or two when they face the Egyptians at home. The game played on Tuesday night exposed a lot of Popa’s weaknesses in almost all departments.
Meanwhile, Esperance defeated Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) in another Tuesday encounter, leaving the latter with same number of points with Popa at the bottom half of the table. Thus far, with three games to go, Esperance are leading group A with seven points, while Ahly who lost to KCCA in their last game are placed second with four points. When the two teams meet next Friday Popa Head coach Nikola Kavazovic and his charges must come with a better game plan and execute it effectively.
Popa’s weakest point has been in the defence which has cost the team dearly. Defensive errors have contributed hugely to the team’s heavy losses in both Tunisia and Egypt. The defence line, comprising Kaone Vanderweisthuizen, Obuile Ncenga, Simisani Mathumo and Ivan Ntenge was in a chaotic state on Tuesday and allowed the lethal Ahly strike force to punch holes in their defence.
The problem is further compounded by an erratic goalkeeper, Mwampule Masule is gifted, but his acrobatic saves are not enough against superior opposition in the form of Ahly. He remains a poor communicator in the defence line. Masule rarely commands his defenders and this leads to dangerous situations in the defence line.
The coach, Kavazovic knew what he was dealing with as the Egyptians are CAF Champions league record winners. However, the outspoken and fiery Serbian needs to step up his game in the fire power department. On Tuesday night, Kavazovic's front line did not get off against the Ahly defence. The statistics speak for themselves as the Popa attack did not show enough ambition against the CAF multiple champions who, strangely lost to KCCA in their previous encounter. On paper Ahly had 12 shots at goal as compared to Rollers who have nine attempts. In the second leg next Friday, Popa’s strike force comprising Edwin Moalosi, Boyo Lechaena and Joel Mogorosi must show more creativity.
The presence of Lemponye Tshireletso will be an added bonus for Popa. With the second game coming to Gaborone, the 12th man will be an added advantage for Popa as the Blue nation will be expected to throng the National Stadium in full force. Meanwhile, It will be interesting to see who will officiate the second leg. The Algeria official who was in charge of the game on Tuesday slapped Popa with four yellow cards.