Balance of  power shifts in  Bantu’s favour

Balance of power shifts in Bantu’s favour

Maseru – As the music boomed and the flags waved and Bantu’s players embraced in celebration, a new reality was coming to life in the Vodacom Premier League’s balance of power.
Lioli’s two-year reign as Lesotho’s kings is teetering after Bantu continued their incredible dominance of ‘Tse Nala’ with a dazzling 2-1 win on Sunday on a luminous afternoon for Lesotho football.

The match was more than just a game for the Mafeteng giants, it marked the beginning of Bantu’s 90th anniversary celebrations and it attracted a beautifully packed Setsoto Stadium.
Bantu’s pre-game festivities included special guests, South African actors Cornet Mamabolo and Bontle Sithole who play ‘Tbose’ and ‘Busi Motsamai’ in popular SABC soapies Skeem Saam and Muvhango.

And, at the end of it all, it was a special afternoon for ‘A Matšo Matebele’ fans, though for Lioli, it was a day the champions will want to forget quickly because it continued Bantu’s unbelievable supremacy over them. Bantu have not lost to Lioli in half a decade.

To be exact, it was on February 4 in 2012 during the 2011/12 season when Teyateyaneng last got the better of Mafeteng in the league. Since then there have been two governments, the construction of a new mall in Maseru and three Likuena coaches.
Buoyed by that confidence, Bantu started the match like a house on fire and caught Lioli’s defence sleeping in the second minute when Likuena international Litšepe Marabe struck with a typically clinical finish.

And, for the first 20 minutes Lioli had a nightmare of a game as they were exposed in every department and could not even complete two passes.
The champions clearly missed suspended midfield lynchpin Tšoanelo Koetle who was sent off against Liphakoe last week. Without him Lioli could not grab any foothold in the game and it was only Bantu’s inability to convert chances that kept ‘Tse Nala’ in the match.

The Teyateyaneng giants, however, breathed a sigh of relief when match referee Retšelisitsoe Molise pointed to the spot in the 33rd minute.
It was a penalty surrounded by controversy.
‘A Matšo Matebele’ felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick of their own a few moments earlier and Bantu coach James Madidilane was visibly annoyed by the decision as he fumed on the touchline.
Unruffled, midfielder Jerry Kamela made no mistake from the spot to restore Lioli’s hopes.
However, the ambitions ‘Tse Nala’ were beginning to have that they could claim at least a point from the game were shattered in the 56th minute by the day’s star player Kalake who beat a helpless Liteboho Mokhehle in the Lioli goals.

With the win, Bantu, who were the last team to hold the title before Lioli’s back-to-back triumphs, moved five points clear of the champions at the summit of the Vodacom Premier League after 20 matches.

And, although they have played a game more than Lioli, ‘A Matšo Matebele’ may have gained a decisive psychological advantage in the title race.
Bantu coach Madidilane, for his part, praised his team for sticking to the game-plan.

He even allowed himself to contemplate his side’s “real” title chances, though he insisted there is still plenty of work to do.
“I think we still have six matches that we have to play and for us as Bantu we have to make sure that we don’t drop any points in the last six matches left,” a delighted Madidilane said.
“Well done to our boys,” the South African tactician added. “The way we started the match is the way we had planned. We knew that Lioli is a team that can play (good football) but when you put them under pressure they can’t play which is what we did today. Well done to our boys, they listened to the tactics.”

Madidilane, who is now on course to win the title in his first season in charge, agreed that Sunday’s win over Lioli could be pivotal come the season’s end.
“We told ourselves that, in order for us to make our chances to win the league stronger, we have to beat Lioli because they are a team that we are competing with on top of the log. So, we came to this match for only one thing (and that is) three points because a point was not going be enough for us,” Madidilane said.
Lioli head coach Halemakale Mahlaha, on the other hand, was a dejected man.

He said his players were not in the game mentally and he lamented the absence of Koetle which he said affected their plans and led to Lioli’s replacement midfield combination of Bushy Moletsane, Obakeng Modirwa and Kamela being outplayed. “Both mentally and tactically we were not OK,” Mahlaha complained.
“We didn’t play our normal game which is the passing game. Bantu came very strong and their intentions were higher than ours; they got an early goal.”
Mahlaha admitted Bantu’s long unbeaten run against his side may be playing a mental song on his players.

“If you look at it that way you might believe it’s one of the reasons. Bantu now beat us unnecessarily, it can affect players,” Mahlaha said. “But, we missed Tšoanelo in the midfield hence why we could not play our normal game. Our midfield combination of Bushy, Jerry and Obakeng failed,” he added.

Lioli can still get their revenge when the two juggernauts clash again in the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 semi-finals next month.
However, for now Bantu are the talk of the town and the favourites to win the Vodacom Premier League title.

Luciah Phahla

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