. . . as big guns battle for M100 000 LNIG Top8 prize
PREMIER league football titans, Bantu and Lioli will once again bring the country to a standstill when they clash in the LNIG Top 8 semi-final at Setsoto Stadium on Saturday.
The sides have a fierce rivalry which has provided some memorable clashes in the quest for honours over the last five seasons.
Bantu prevailed 2-1 in their recent meeting in the league, and in the process boosted their chances of wresting the league title from their rivals who have won it two seasons on the trot.
Saturday’s semi-final will thus be the perfect platform for Tse Nala to exact revenge.
The Bantu-Lioli tie will be preceded by the other semi-final showdown between Kick4Life and LCS.
Lioli coach, Halemakale Mahlaha this week stressed the importance of his team defending all the tiles they won last year including this competition.
“Our mandate is to defend all the trophies that are in our cabinet and that means we have to beat Bantu to remain on track,” Mahlaha said.
But overcoming their rivals will not be easy as Bantu have established themselves as Lioli’s bogey side ever since they won promotion back into the top flight in the 2009/2010 season.
“I think that is just a mentality and we are working on it to make sure that our players are in good shape mentally and physically for that game,” Mahlaha said of their struggles against Bantu which have seen them win just two, lose six and draw eight of the encounters since Bantu returned to the top flight.
Mahlaha also said the fact that his side thumped Butha Buthe Warriors 5-0 in a weekend league match would have given his players confidence in front of goal.
“I’m happy that our players managed to get five goals and I believe it’s a good boost heading into the match against Bantu.
Meanwhile, Bantu coach James Madidilane said a tough encounter awaited his side, adding they had intensified their preparations.
“All the remaining games are very important but this one is the priority because it’s coming up this Saturday,” said Madidilane, who could win the league and LNIG Top 8 titles in his maiden season in charge of A Matšo Matebele.
“It’s a game that could go a long way in making our season a success by motivating the players for the remaining games.
“But we really want to get to the final and that means putting a lot of hard work in our preparations.”
Madidilane said Lioli would be motivated after winning by a big margin last weekend.
“They are also the league champions and a big team in Lesotho and that means we will have to be at our best to beat them.
“I just hope that my players will come to the party and execute the game plan,” he said.
The former Bloemfontein Celtic defender bemoaned unspecified aspects of his charges’ approach which cost them points in Sunday goalless draw with LCS.
“We wanted to win the match against LCS last Sunday but things did not go as planned, but you have to understand because we played against a very good side.
“I think there are still elements of our game that we need to work on.
“We could have been punished against LCS but I’m happy that we kept a clean sheet.”
The winners of Saturday’s semi-finals will clash in the final on Sunday and this will be preceded by the third/fourth place play-off.
The winners will pocket M100 000 prize money.
LNIG Top 8 semi-finals fixtures:
LCS v Kick4Life-13h00
Bantu v Lioli-13h00
Third/fourth place play-off -13h00