A race to the finish

A race to the finish

…..Will Matlama hold on to lift title?…..

MASERU – The 2018/19 Econet Premier League marathon is in its final stretch with all 14 contenders squeezing their last bits of energy to get over the finish.
There are just four games to play before the curtain closes on the season but there is still plenty to be decided around the league.
At the top, two teams are going neck-and-neck for the title with Matlama holding a five-point edge over defending champions Bantu.
Things are similarly interesting in the sprint for the top four where Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lioli and Kick4Life are battling for one spot while the relegation dogfight may also go down to the last kick on the final day.

TITLE CONTENDERS

Matlama

The last time the log leaders came this close to winning the championship was in 2015/16 under Moses Maliehe.
In that season Matlama suffered heartbreak at the hands of Lioli; ‘Tse Putsoa’ lost the title by one point in a thrilling race that went down to the final game.
After a disappointing couple of years following that close shave, Matlama have been revitalised this season under Thabile Secker as they seek a first league title since the 2009/10 campaign.
Matlama still have several players from that 2015/16 squad such as Motebang Sera, Phafa Tšosane and Mabuti Potloane and they have grown together since.
Displaying greater maturity and consistency, ‘Tse Putsoa’ have led the log for large parts of the season and have now been on top for the past two months.
Matlama are five points clear of second-placed Bantu and on Monday they clocked their biggest victory of the season as they walloped Majantja 5-0 at Setsoto Stadium to keep their title ambitions on track.
Sera – who is the league’s top scorer – was a star performer again scoring twice to take his season’s tally to 15 goals, five shy of his stated goal of 20 strikes.
On paper the only tricky fixture left on Matlama’s plate is next weekend’s humdinger against Bantu where a win would effectively seal the title for ‘Tse Putsoa’.
Matlama’s other three games are against sides in the bottom half of the table and they are matches Secker would be confident of winning.
After failing to defend their Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 trophy three weeks ago, the league crown is the only silverware left for Matlama to claim this season.
‘Tse Putsoa’ may also never get a better chance to end their league title drought.
The stakes are high.

Remaining games:

28/04 Matlama vs Galaxy (A)

04/05 Matlama vs Bantu (A)

12/05 Matlama vs Sefotha-fotha (H)

18/05 Matlama vs Linare (H)

Bantu

After a shaky start to the season Bantu have recovered and fought as champions do to get themselves back in the title conversation.
The Mafeteng giants have won seven of their last nine league games and have lost just once in 13 league games since the turn of the year.
However, despite all their hard work, Bantu coach James Madidilane has admitted the title is out of their hands and that ‘A Matšo Matebele’ have to hope Matlama drop points.
Bantu are in this unfamiliar situation because of a hectic season that saw them compete valiantly in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup during an exciting but gruelling period from November to January.
Ultimately, their African adventures caused Bantu to lag behind in the Econet Premier League as they looked to capture the title for a history-making third time in a row.
Now it will take a minor miracle for Madidilane’s charges to join LDF as the only sides to win three successive league titles.
Compared to Matlama, Bantu’s remaining slate of games is daunting.
Aside from facing a must-win tie against Matlama next Saturday, ‘A Matšo Matebele’ will also have to get the better of Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS), Lioli and a fearless Sefotha-fotha if they are to retain their crown.

Remaining games:

27/04 Bantu vs LCS (H)

04/05 Bantu vs Matlama (H)

11/05 Bantu vs Lioli (A)

18/05 Bantu vs Sefotha-fotha (A)

TOP 4

Matlama and Bantu have sealed the league’s top two spots and will qualify for next season’s Independence Cup. LCS, in third position, are no longer in the title race but are nailed in the top four frame as well.
That leaves LDF, Lioli and Kick4Life to fight it out for the remaining top four spot currently occupied by ‘Sohle-Sohle’.

LDF

It has been a good season for Motheo Mohapi’s side who were crowned LNIG Top 8 champions earlier this month.
That triumph marked their first piece of silverware since 2008 and if LDF can also secure a top four spot, it would turn a good season into a super one.
LDF are fourth, one point ahead of Lioli, and looking at their remaining run of games, ‘Sohle-Sohle’ are clear favourites to finish fourth.

Remaining games:

27/04 LDF vs Sefotha-fotha (A)

11/05 LDF vs Kick4Life (H)

18/05 LDF vs Majantja (A)

Lioli

For Lioli this has been a rebuilding season after they parted ways with Morena Ramorebodi at the end of an underwhelming 2017/18 campaign.
‘Tse Nala’ brought in former Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) technical director Lehlohonolo Thotanyana and Mosholi Mokhothu as head coach and assistant coach respectively to form a dream team in the dressing room.
However, it hasn’t all gone according to plan.
Yes, Lioli did win the Independence Cup in October to ensure they would at least end the season with silverware.
But ‘Tse Nala’ have struggled since that triumph and their nine defeats this season are already Lioli’s most in a league campaign since they lost nine through the 2007/08 season.
As things stand, Lioli are in danger of missing out on a top four place for the first time since 2012 which would end the longest current top four streak in the league.

Remaining games:

28/04 Lioli vs LMPS (H)

11/05 Lioli vs Bantu (H)

18/05 Lioli vs Kick4Life (A)

Kick4Life

Sixth-placed Kick4Life are the outsiders to make it into the top four party but they do control their destiny as they still have to play both LDF and Lioli.
Win both matches and Kick4Life could find themselves sitting at the VIP top four table when the season ends.
If Kick4Life can somehow beat LDF and Lioli to get in that cool party it will be some achievement.
Like Lioli, they also made managerial changes entering this season as Leslie Notši, who nurtured Kick4Life from league babies to top four heroes in 2017, left to take up a senior role at LEFA.
Former Bantu assistant Bob Mafoso was brought in to replace Notši and he has navigated a debut season filled with highs and lows that has already guaranteed a top eight place but could still end with a top four prize.

Remaining games:

27/04 Kick4Life vs Liphakoe (H)

11/05 Kick4Life vs LDF (A)

18/05 Kick4Life vs Lioli (H)

RELEGATION

The bottom of the league looks familiar; it has been the same teams down there since January.
Lijabatho and Lifofane have already sealed their promotion from the A-Division to the Econet Premier League and they are happily waiting to see which two teams they will replace in the top-flight next season.

Swallows

As things stand, Swallows, who were promoted to the Econet Premiership at the start of the 2018/19 campaign, will be on the first bus back to the A-Division when the season ends.
In fact, their fate may be sealed well before then.
With only two wins from 23 games this season, the Mazenod side are seven points from safety with three matches to play.
The maths, as a result, is quite simple: if Swallows fail to beat Likhopo on Sunday they will be relegated from the Econet Premier League.

Remaining games:

28/04 Swallows vs Likhopo (H)

12/05 Swallows vs Liphakoe (A)

18/05 Swallows vs LCS (H)

Majantja

After consecutive drubbings at the hands of Bantu (6-1) and Matlama (5-0) over an unhappy Easter weekend, Majantja’s hopes of staying in the Econet Premier League are hanging by thread.
Their chances took a further knock when relegation rivals Galaxy beat Liphakoe 1-0 last Saturday.
Things are not looking good in Mohale’s Hoek.
Majantja are now four points adrift of safety and their prospects are not helped by their abysmal goal difference of minus-31.
Realistically, Majantja will have to win at least two of their remaining three games to have any chance of negotiating their stay in the top-flight status on judgement day.
However, those remaining matches are tough and their best chance of a win is probably this Saturday at home to Linare.
After that Majantja face Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), who are looking to seal a top eight place, before they finish the season against an LDF side hungry for the top four.
If Majantja are to survive it won’t come easy, and they have to count on Galaxy dropping points.

Remaining games:

27/04 Majantja vs Linare (H)

11/05 Majantja vs LMPS (A)

18/05 Majantja vs LDF (H)

Galaxy

The Econet Premier League new boys can breathe a huge sigh of relief after their gutsy 1-0 win over Liphakoe last weekend.
The win may have bought the Maputsoe outfit another season in the elite league with the big boys.
Galaxy can’t afford to relax though, and they have a tough run-in which features Matlama, LMPS and LCS on the playlist.
Still, Galaxy have done well to get this far in the marathon.
At the turn of the year Galaxy were cramping in the relegation zone and they appeared set for a swift return to the first division.
Now it looks as though Galaxy will make it safely across the finish line and live to fight another day.

Remaining games:

28/04 Galaxy vs Matlama (H)

12/05 Galaxy vs LCS (A)

18/05 Galaxy vs LMPS (H)

Econet Premier League standings:

 

 

P

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts.

1

Matlama

22

17

2

3

45

11

+34

53

2

Bantu

22

14

6

2

46

9

+37

48

3

LCS

23

13

7

3

31

12

+19

46

4

LDF

23

10

7

6

18

17

+1

37

5

Lioli

23

11

3

9

27

17

+10

36

6

Kick4Life

23

10

5

8

24

25

-1

35

7

Liphakoe

24

7

9

8

21

20

+1

30

8

LMPS

23

8

6

9

18

17

+1

30

9

Sefotha-fotha

23

6

11

6

20

22

-2

29

10

Likhopo

22

9

2

11

20

35

-15

29

11

Linare

23

5

7

11

17

27

-10

22

12

Galaxy

23

5

4

14

15

27

-12

19

13

Majantja

23

4

3

16

19

50

-31

15

14

Swallows

23

2

6

15

12

44

-32

12

 

 

 

 

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