Lioli tipped for glory

Lioli tipped for glory

Luciah Phahla
Maseru – The much anticipated 2016 Independence Cup finally roars into life this weekend at Setsoto Stadium with Lioli many people’s favourites to claim their fifth crown.
However, to do that ‘Tse Nala’ must first negotiate an ambitious Sundawana outfit that has promised to topple the Teyateyaneng giants when the teams kick off this year’s tournament on Saturday.
The reward for the winner of that fascinating tie will be a Sunday date with either Matlama or Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) who clash in Saturday’s other semi-final.
The four clubs are battling for a whopping booty of M100 000 plus a M50 000 bonus added to mark Lesotho’s 50th independence anniversary by sponsors Standard Lesotho Bank and Metropolitan Lesotho.
It is a two-day football bonanza unique to Lesotho.
For Sundawana the weekend’s showpiece is a chance to shine on the biggest stage for the first time in the club’s history.
‘Tse Bo Yellow’ are in this year’s Independence Cup thanks to their improbable fourth place league finish last season under the guidance of Bob Mafoso.

Sundawana, however, go into the tournament without a coach after Sidwell Mothea’s sacking last week.
Nonetheless, the confidence of the underdogs is unshaken.
Speaking to thepost yesterday, Sundawana communication and marketing manager Bokang Phasumane declared they are not adding numbers but are ready to fight Lioli for a spot in Sunday’s M150 000 final.
“We will be competing in this tournament for the first time and it’s an opportunity we are looking to grab with both hands. We are going into this tournament to fight for the winning prize like all the (other) teams. And we will fight for it, we are well prepared,” Phasumane said.
He continued: “You will realise that we have strengthened our team this season. Just because Lioli beat us in the (pre-season) Alliance Winter Challenge, they must not think that this will be a walk in the park for them. Our game against Liphakoe (a 3-2 league win on Sunday) is where we started our preparations for this game. I can tell you the players are motivated.”
Phasumane’s threats, however, fell on deaf ears to his Lioli counterpart Tšeliso Lerata. The ‘Tse Nala’ spokesman said they cannot wait to meet their Butha-Buthe opponents saying Sundawana have become Lioli’s daily bread.
He pointed to the clubs’ meeting in last season’s Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 where Lioli easily swept aside Sundawana winning both games of a two-legged quarterfinal tie for a 7-3 aggregate victory.
Lerata said Sundawana posed no threat to Lioli’s Independence Cup ambitions.
“They have our respect but the truth is they are now our daily bread and they know it as well. I cannot imagine the headlines ‘Sundawana beat Lioli’; just imagine. It’s not going to happen,” he said.
He added: “We have beaten them before with a coach; they have never won a game against Lioli with a coach. So it does not make any difference that they don’t have a coach now. Nowadays Lioli fans are not promised titles, they know for sure they are coming.”
The second semi-final between Matlama and LCS is also an intriguing match-up.
The teams met in the final of the pre-season Alliance Winter Challenge where ‘Masheshena’ edged Matlama 2-1.
Buoyed by that result, LCS communications and marketing manager Kofa Rantai warned Matlama not to consider LCS’s form in the league.
‘Masheshena’ have struggled in the Vodacom Premier League this term.
They are eighth and haven’t won a match since beating Sky Battalion on September 17.
“We have not been doing well in the league, we drew a lot of games, but this is a different game and we will approach this game differently. This is a cup game, anything can happen,” Rantai said.
“Games like this can either make or break you,” he added. “If you win, it might boost your confidence in the league games. However, if you lose, it could demoralise you, we don’t want that.”
Rantai said last Saturday’s one-all draw with Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) in the league was good preparation for Saturday’s meeting with Matlama.
“It is good that we played LMPS in the league before this game. They are a team with a very good defence and we managed to score a goal. And even though we conceded as well, it gave us confidence because defensively Matlama is not strong,” he said.
Rantai also confirmed influential winger Thabo Seakhoa will be available after being on the sidelines with an injury. ‘Masheshena’ will, however, be without midfielders Mosiuoa Boseka and Lehloka Lieta.
On the other hand, Matlama have been boosted by the news that Mabuti Potloane and skipper Phafa Tšosane’s injury scares are not serious.
Both are likely to feature this weekend as Matlama look to win their first Independence Cup trophy since 1994.
‘Tse Putsoa’ will also welcome back defender Tšeliso Ramathe and Ghanaian Michael Mireku who both missed last Saturday’s 1-0 league win over Likhopo. The only player missing for Moses Maliehe’s side will be midfield anchor Kefuoe Mahula who picked up a red card against Likhopo.
Matlama communications and marketing manager Tankiso Moletsane said morale is high after that much needed win against Likhopo.
“We played well last season and we picked up from where we left off in our first game of the season. But then after we played a lot of draws and you could see that the players were under pressure. The draws had demoralised them which is why after winning our game against Likhopo you saw them celebrate by taking off their shirts because they were
relieved,” Moletsane said.
Moletsane said Matlama know what to expect from LCS.
“We come to this game highly motivated and with one intention: to win the cup,” he added.
“Starting from today (Wednesday) the players start their camp because we want everyone to be in the right condition come Saturday.”
The Prizes:
Winner: M150 000
Runner-up: M60 000
Third placed: M40 000
Fourth placed team: M30 000
The Individual Awards:
Man of the Match (all four matches): M1 000
Player of the Tournament: M3 000
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: M2 000
Top Goal-scorer: M2 500
Referee of the Tournament: M2 000
Assistant Referee of the Tournament: M2 000
Fixtures:
Saturday
Lioli vs. Sundawana (13:00)
Matlama vs. LCS (15:00)
Sunday
Losers’ final (13:00)
Final (15:00)

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