Can Lioli redeem themselves?

Can Lioli redeem themselves?

 

Sports Reporter

MASERU
It is an age-old saying that in football things can change in an instant and this is exactly what has happened in the Vodacom Premier League.

Last week’s Moshoeshoe’s Day weekend, the celebration of the country’s founder, also brought a new monarch of the league table.

There is a new leader of the Vodacom Premier League – Matlama.

Football is funny.

Just a week ago Lioli were looking like a team that would defend their league crown quite comfortably. Granted, Tse Nala were unceremoniously dumped out of the CAF Champions League in the preliminary round, but they did beat Burundi’s Vital’O away from home.

Until their back-to-back goalless draws with Likila United and Bantu last weekend, Lioli had held the top spot in the premiership since ascending there in the first week of December.

The Champions League was always going to throw a spanner in the works and so it proved. Lioli were forced to re-schedule games while at the same time competing in the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8.

However, even with the fixture pile-up, what has worryingly showed up in their recent setbacks is a lack of big match temperament.

Lioli‘s league finishes over the past three seasons:

Season Position P W D L GF GA Pts.
2014-15 1 26 19 6 1 49 7 63
2013-14 2 26 17 3 6 41 17 54
2012-13 1 22 13 7 2 30 10 46

 

It is a concerning trend for a team that has dominated the local league for the past three years.

Lioli in recent Independence Cup finals

2013: Bantu 1-1 Lioli (lost 4-3 penalties)

2014: Lioli 1-1 Matlama (won 12-11 penalties)

2015: Bantu 1-1 Lioli (lost 15-14 penalties)

Despite their dominance, recent history shows Lioli have made a habit of falling short on the big stage.

They have not convinced in local cup finals and have come up short in their two CAF Champions League encounters — against Angola’s Primeiro de Agosto and Vital’O — when they had the stage set for them to win both times.

Lioli’s inability to recognise the importance of the occasion is of worry. They were lax against Vital’O in the critical first leg at Setsoto Stadium and they lost the Independence Cup final last November when they were favourites against a struggling Bantu. Those are their biggest games of the season so far and Lioli didn’t come to the party despite their plethora of stars.

Again, last Sunday against Bantu it is difficult to say Lioli were anywhere near their best. Are they flat track bullies? They walloped Mphatlalatsane 6-0 two weeks ago but Sunday’s game was the third league game in a row Tse Nala have failed to beat Bantu, again supporting the notion Lioli are faltering in their biggest moments.

It was apparent Lioli felt the pressure against Bantu after drawing with Likila United two days before.

They were timid and did not attack with fervour even though Bantu were down to 10 men in the second half.

Now only five more rounds remain until the end of the season.

Lioli are, of course, still the favourites.

They have a game in hand on Matlama and the best squad in Lesotho. But, this lack of big match temperament may be the issue that worries coach Mosholi Mokhothu most. Certainly, it is something they have to fix if they are to reach their vast potential locally and continentally.

Lioli have another big match this weekend, a title race six-pointer against Lesotho Correctional Service FC (LCS) on Sunday at Setsoto.

It is another chance for Lioli to grab a stranglehold of a championship they have appeared to be the class of. More importantly, it is another opportunity to show they can deliver their best on the biggest occasion.

Vodacom Premier League Catch Up Fixtures

Sunday 20th March 2016

Likila United v Likhopo (15:00, Butha-Buthe)

Lioli v LCS (15:00, Setsoto Stadium)

Linare v Sandawana (15:00, Maputsoe)

Vodacom Premier League Table

    P W D L GF GA GD Pts.
1 Matlama 20 13 4 3 34 19 +15 43
2 Lioli 19 12 6 1 30 8 +22 42
3 LCS 19 12 5 2 22 7 +15 41
4 Sandawana 19 9 3 7 18 18 +0 30
5 Bantu 20 8 5 7 18 11 +7 29
6 Likhopo 19 7 7 5 22 14 +8 28
7 LDF 20 6 8 6 20 18 +2 26
8 Kick4Life 19 5 9 5 14 17 -3 24
9 Liphakoe 19 4 9 6 14 17 -3 21
10 LMPS 20 3 9 8 17 25 -8 18
11 Linare 19 4 5 10 18 24 -6 17
12 Rovers 20 4 5 11 13 25 -12 17
13 Likila United 19 4 5 10 13 26 -13 17
14 Mphatlalatsane 20 2 6 12 16 40 -24 12

 

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