Tricky season for top teams

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MASERU — It is proving to be an unpredictable season for top premier league clubs.

As soon as a club seems it will grab the championship race by the horns they suddenly throw away the advantage.

The circus to predict who will walk away with the Vodacom Premier League championship at the end of the season begins again.

Last weekend, the last one of league action for 2010, the culprits were Linare who after winning their previous three home games contrived to lose 1-0 at home to new boys Maduma on Sunday.

The result means that although Linare will end the year at the top of the league, they have squandered a chance to open a healthy four-point gap at the top of the log especially after second-placed Bantu were comprehensively beaten on Saturday.

Bantu crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of LMPS.

Sunday was a chance for Tse Tala to lay down a marker.

But they fluffed the opportunity.

At present the league’s top five sides — Linare, Bantu, LDF, LCS and LMPS — are separated by just four points.

It’s symptomatic of a season that has been erratic for most clubs.

With just 10 games played, the top three teams have dropped a combined 24 points.

Perhaps it is a demonstration of how tight our domestic league has become in recent seasons.

At least four teams will be relegated at the end of the season in line with the Mohale Declaration — a roadmap intended to reform local football — to cut the number of clubs in the top-flight division from the current 14 to 12.

Two teams will be promoted from the lower division.

Top club Linare are 13 points ahead of bottom side Mabeoana.

And whereas last season at a similar stage Butha-Buthe Roses were clearly drifting towards relegation, it is difficult to say the same of Mabeoana.

Clubs that were expected to put up a fight for the title have also been disappointing.

Take for example, Linare’s match against Lerotholi two weeks ago.

Linare played extremely well against Lerotholi but could just not break down their opponents even after Lihale went a man down.

They could only muster a one-all draw.

Against Maduma, the visitors allowed Linare space in their own half but as soon as Maduma pressed, Linare just had no answer.

The current top two sides on the league log have been easily out-thought and out-manoeuvred.

LMPS outwitted Bantu on Saturday in their 3-0 win as Simunye coach, Lelia Makubekube, pointed out after his side’s win.

“Bantu, we know, are now a team that has quite a number of ball players who like to stroke the ball around.

“I don’t see a difference between them and Lioli. We know that when they are playing with the ball they will forget about defending the space behind, and that is what we planned to capitalise on,” Makubekube said.

However, it is hard to say Likhopo will come back into title contention in the New Year.

Likhopo have only played five matches this season and have a lot of catch-up matches to clear their backlog.

But next year their players will be in the national teams because of the All Africa Games qualifiers and the Caf African Youth Championship in Libya in March.

The same can be said of champions Matlama, who end the year just above the relegation zone.

This all means that LDF and LCS who are dangerously lurking close behind on the log could turn out to be the favourites in the second round.

LCS have made a slow start to the season and only got their third win against Mabeoana, but they are unbeaten.

They are under the tutelage of Lesotho’s most decorated coach Mafa Ramakau.

LDF are the only other side that are unbeaten and they are usually the league’s most consistent side.

Perhaps it is these factors that will decide who will rule this topsy-turvy premiership season.

Maduma’s win over Linare, thanks to Mosito Chitja’s 28th minute goal, means the Khukhune side are remarkably just three points away from fourth spot.

But most importantly for them Maduma are now five points ahead of the relegation zone.

And although they have played two more games than 11th placed Joy, the adage “points in the bag are better than those you are yet to gain” could prove true in this unpredictable season.

Even more encouraging for Maduma is that they have played almost half of their allotted away games and will have the bulk of their games at home when the league returns in 2011.

However, things don’t look too good for bottom sides Mabeoana and Swallows.

The two teams are not too far behind the rest of the pack, but the tightness of this league means there is little margin for error.

Weekend results

Saturday:

LMPS 3-0 Bantu, Joy 0-0 Lerotholi

Sunday:

LDF 2-2 Mphatlalatsane, Linare 0-1 Maduma, LCS 1-0 Mabeoana

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