Bantu on cusp  of greatness

Bantu on cusp of greatness

Maseru – James Madidilane could barely contain his joy after Bantu’s dazzling 4-1 conquest of Econet Premier League rivals Lioli on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium. During the game, Madidilane had stormed along the sidelines in front of his team’s bench, waving his arms and urging his charges vigorously. Bantu’s players — backed by the now customary symphony of travelling support from Mafeteng — duly responded with a sparkling victory that has put ‘A Matšo Matebele’ within touching distance of winning the league title, a challenge Madidilane had set for his side at the start of the campaign.

The defending champions, in fact, probably have one hand on the championship because Sunday’s win at a breezy Setsoto extended their lead atop the Econet Premier League to seven points with just four games left to play. A quick use of the calculator gives us simple maths — if Bantu collect just six more points from the remaining 12 available they will guarantee another title, regardless of what second-placed Lioli do. No wonder Madidilane was eager to make sure everyone grasped the importance of Sunday’s win and, of course, why he was so happy.

“Our victory helped us a lot because we succeeded in opening a gap between us and Lioli in terms of points on the log,” the South African tactician beamed. “I think we now need to win two more matches to defend the title; it is our wish to do so, and we are left with four matches to do it.” Bantu, it must be remembered, have never reached these lofty heights where they sit on the cusp of defending Lesotho’s grandest football crown and joining a select group of teams that have done so.

Indeed, just ten years ago ‘A Matšo Matebele’ were still stuck in the First Division having plunged from the top-flight at the turn of the century while the club’s first-ever league title triumph only came in 2014. But, times have changed and here they were on Sunday dominating a match that had been billed as a title decider between Lesotho’s best two teams. It was a no-contest and Bantu simply ran riot against Lioli with slippery winger Ramasimong Maloisane scoring twice and Lesotho internationals Hlompho Kalake and Litšepe Marabe continuing their fantastic seasons by grabbing a goal each.

“We created a lot of opportunities to score goals,” Madidilane said. “I think (Lioli) had more possession, especially in the second half, but we utilised the chances that we had and we got something fruitful from them.” The result is Bantu have 48 points from 20 games while Lioli have 41 points from the same number of matches. It means the maximum points total Lioli can now reach after Sunday’s humbling is 53, meaning Bantu need just 54 points to seal the deal.

The Mafeteng side’s remaining games are not straightforward with Majantja, Matlama, Lesotho Correctional Service and Lesotho Defence Force all waiting to spoil their party, but to bet against Madidilane and his charges has become a fools’ errand of late. ‘A Matšo Matebele’ have been irresistible in the league in 2018 and currently ride the wave of a seven-match winning streak that began in February. That winning run has put Bantu on the verge of a league and Independence Cup double which, even after losing the Lesotho National Insurance Top 8 final to Matlama last month, would make this one of the most fruitful seasons in the club’s 91-year history.

“From the start of this campaign we made it a goal to win the title; we need to win two matches so that we can say we have achieved our goal,” Madidilane said. Importantly for Madidilane, doing the double would embody improvement on last season for Bantu. “As much as we wanted to win everything this season because of the kind of players we have, we cannot complain about our loss in the LNIG Top 8 (final) because last season we only won one trophy which was the league but now it is a different story as we have two,” he said.

“We wanted all of the trophies but two (out of three) is still a good record.”

Nkheli Liphoto

Weekend Econet Premier League results:

Saturday
Kick4Life 4-1 Majantja
Linare 0-2 LMPS

Sunday
Likhopo 0-2 LCS
LDF 2-1 Matlama
Bantu 4-1 Lioli
Sky Battalion 0-4 Sefotha-fotha

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