Bantu, the moving train

Bantu, the moving train

MASERU – There is still life in this Econet Premier League title race yet and its champions are not going down without a fight.
At an animated Setsoto Stadium last Saturday, Bantu put on a reminder that the crown still resides in Mafeteng as they produced their best performance of the season to beat Econet Premier League leaders Matlama 1-0.

Bantu’s hero on the day was the ever-dependable Litšepe Marabe who returned to haunt his former side to score the crucial winner.
With the win ‘A Matšo Matebele’ are now just six points behind Matlama and they have two games in hand on the leaders.
Bantu also have a better goal difference – plus-27 compared to Matlama’s plus-22 – which means if they were to win their two games in hand, the champions would leapfrog Matlama into first place.
The significance of the victory was not lost on the masses of Bantu fans that made the trip from Mafeteng to back their heroes as they danced and cheered in the evening breeze.

It was not lost either on Bantu coach James Madidilane who punched the air in joy at the final whistle as he celebrated with his side’s adoring fans. The first target had been achieved, he said; now to the next one.
“I am happy that we have won the match but, like I said, we need to catch up to Matlama because they are above us even after getting these three points; every three points from any team is important for us,” Madidilane said.
Still, Sunday’s three points will have felt more important than any gained so far this season.

Bantu, winners of the past two league titles, went into last Saturday’s game facing the real threat of being eliminated from the title race with a defeat and, for the first time in ages, Madidilane’s side went into a league game as underdogs.
Once on the field, however, their championship mettle shone through.
Bantu were the more confident and imposing team from the start and within the first five minutes Mokone Marabe had already called Matlama’s shot stopper Monaheng Ramalefane to task with a rasping shot.
‘A Matšo Matebele’ looked more dangerous and used their wing players to provide width to the team which troubled Matlama’s defence on several occasions.

Despite Bantu’s dominance, Matlama could have taken the lead through Motebang Sera but the striker could not connect a header from Linkoane Reitumetse’s perfect delivery. It was to prove a costly miss as Marabe, always a man for the big stage, popped up in the second half with another priceless goal.
And, as they have done over the past three years, Madidilane and his coaching staff had cooked up a plan to outfox their opponents when it mattered most.

“Our game-plan was to try to neutralise their rightback (Mohai Mohai),” the Bantu mentor explained afterwards.
“When i look at my team, we normally put Litšepe as our left winger but in this match, because (Lehlohonolo) Fothoane got a red card (in our last game), we decided to put (Tumelo) Maine to neutralise Matlama’s right back because in the previous games we played (against Matlama) the rightback and the left centre-half were the ones to set-up and score the goals. The game-plan was for Maine was to drift inside to open the line for strikers hence why we substituted him as he was getting tired because he was working so hard,” Madidilane said.
Matlama are, of course, still favourites for the Econet Premier League title.
Thabile Secker’s side remain top and they have the points in the bag.

However, Bantu now have the precious commodities of momentum and confidence to build on. The two sides also still have to meet one time before the season is done in a match that may well decide everything.
If Saturday’s game was anything to go by, there are still twists and turns to go in what is turning out to be a delicious title race.

Nkheli Liphoto

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