. . . as Bantu, Lioli take title race down to the wire
THE race for the Vodacom Premier League will go to the wire this Saturday and Bantu have their fate in their hands in their quest to wrest the title from Lioli who still have a chance of bagging their third championship on the trot.
A Matšo Matebele head into their tricky final match against Kick4Life as odds-on-favourites to land their second title since the 2013/14 season as they lead the standings with 59 points- two more than defending champions Lioli.
The Mafeteng based side just need to win their match by any margin to be crowned champions.
Bantu mentor James Madidilane this week told the Lesotho Times that said this was a “very important match in the history of this team and everyone associated with the club and we have to win it at all costs”.
“Leading the club to the league title will mark a memorable year for us,” Madidilane said, adding, “What will make it special is that it’s our first year in charge of the team”.
Madidilane paid tribute to his assistant, Bob Mafoso saying their good working relationship had aided the club’s recovery from their disastrous 2015/16 season.
“It has been a very tough season that came with a lot of pressure from day one and it will be massive to end it with a trophy as big as the league title.
“I would like to thank Ntate Mafoso because we had a very good working relationship that made everything fall in place despite the pressure of coaching such a big team.
“We are young and upcoming coaches and even if we win the league we will still not be complete coaches. There is still a long way to go.”
He said Saturday’s match would be a tough and tactical game as they were coming up against an experienced coach in Leslie Notši.
“We have to be cautious, solid defensively and utilise all the chances that will come our way.
“It is a game that we have to do everything to win and clinch the title,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lioli Coach Halemakale Mahlaha said they would go all out to win their match to maintain their chances.
He however, said he did not anticipate Bantu to slip-up.
“As much as I expect competitive matches on Saturday, I do not see them (Bantu) choking based on their recent form,’ Mahlaha said.
“The ball is now in their court, but we will be ready to pounce if they slip-up.
“A second place finish will not be that bad for us because it has been a very challenging campaign that was also marred by off the field incidents between our club and the Lesotho Football Association as far as our national team players are concerned.
“I think the players did not cope well with the pressure that came with everything as well as the fatigue of playing so much football,” he said.
The Tse Nala mentor also said the league was more competitive this season and other clubs had made it difficult for them to win a historic third title in a row.
“The teams have been more prepared and that has made the league more competitive and it’s worth remembering that I joined the team four games before the start of the new season and that led to a slow start to the new campaign.
“But despite all that I’m proud of the team and the commitment they gave throughout the season.
“We will go into the last match with the hope that anything can still happen and do our part against Sky Battalion,” he noted.
Meanwhile in Roma, Rovers will be out to protect their premier league status when they come up against Linare.
The university side are in 12th position, two points ahead of 13th placed Likhopo as the two teams take the relegation dogfight to the final day of the season.
Relegated Butha Buthe Warriors will be joined by any one of Rovers or Likhopo.
Likhopo have a tough task of trying to get three points against Liphakoe in Quthing.
Another match likely to produce fireworks on Saturday is that of Matlama and LDF.
Between them, the two sides have won the highest number of titles.
Tse Putsoa are the country’s most successful club with nine league titles and LDF have won seven times.
This time the two will be fighting for a place in the top eight and both need a point to qualify for next year’s LNIG Top 8.
Vodacom Premier League final fixtures
Lioli v Sky Battalion
Bantu v Kick4Life
LDF v Matlama
LCS v Sandawana
Rovers v Linare
Liphakoe v Likhopo
LMPS v BB Warriors