Orapa United momentarily replaced Extension Gunners at the top of the premier league table after an impressive 2-0 victory over Mahalapye Hotspurs at the Itekeng Stadium last night.
Mapantsula will reclaim top spot if they beat in-form Sankoyo Bush Bucks when the two sides meet at the Lobatse Stadium at four o’clock this afternoon.
Second-half strikes from Lemogang Maswena and Tendai Nyumasi were enough to secure the points for Orapa as the Ostriches maintained their unbeaten start to the season – a run that now stretches to ten games in all competitions.
The defeat condemned Hotspurs, who played with plenty of spirit but were lacking in quality, to a fourth consecutive loss, leaving them level on points with bottom placed club, Green Lovers.
It had all started so well for the Mahalapye side, who managed to contain the Ostriches with relative ease in a lacklustre first-half that finished goalless.
However, a change in formation on the stroke of halftime, forced upon Orapa coach,Madinda Ndlovu, after his left-back KaboMungabe was stretchered off with a nasty looking knock, proved to be the turning point in the match.
Having started the game with four at the back, Ndlovu reverted to a 3-5-2 formation – a move that completely transformed his side, who had looked laboured and devoid of ideas in the first-half.
Responding to Ndlovu’s demand for more urgency, the Oranges started the second-half with an intensity and desire that had been sorely lacking in the first 45 minutes.
The home side’s energy, movement and intricate, free-flowing footballwas a delight to watch and proved too much for Hotspurs to handle.
In a warning sign off what was to come, Orapa nearly took the lead on the hour mark when Patrick Lenyeletse’s fierce long-range shot was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Hotspurs’ agile young goalkeeper, KagisoKhalipha.
The bar rattled and so too did the away side’s confidence.
Five minutes later and Orapa took the lead that their build-up play deserved, when Maswena finished expertly, smashing the ball home from a tight angle after frontman Ronald Chikomo had flicked on a low cross from KemmyPilato on the left-wing.
The Ostriches doubled their lead minutes later, courtesy of a poacher’s finish from Nyumasi. Capitalising on some hesitant defending from Hotspurs, the quick-witted midfielder nipped between two defenders to skilfully guide the bobbling ball into the net with a first-time shot on the half-volley.
The goal broke Hotspurs’ resistance and Orapa could, and probably should, have scored at least four more. Lenyeletse missed two clear-cut headed chances and substitute ZebronNjobvu was guilty of a lack of composure, twice firing wide with the goal at his mercy.
In his post-match assessment, Ndlovu said, that whilst he was pleased with the result and another clean sheet, he was frustrated at his side’s growing tendency to start games slowly.
“We are playing good football but it is in patches. What I want is for them to play the way they did in the second half for the full 90 minutes,” he said, adding that playing three games in the space of a week was taking its toll on his injury-hit squad.
The Zimbabwean was also critical of his side’s terrible finishing, noting that it was not the first time this season his players had been wasteful in front of goal.
For Hotspurs and their coach, Candy Tsheboeng, life in the premier league is proving extremely tough. With just four points and one win from their first seven games, if the Mahalapye side are to extend their stay in the country’s elite division, a vast improvement is needed, and quickly.