Lifeline for Lioli

Lifeline for Lioli

MASERU – The Econet Premier League title race just got interesting and it could go either way right now with three teams in serious contention for the championship. This time last month, it seemed as if Bantu had sealed the title with Lioli fading away in the race but the scandal that shook Lesotho football involving Bantu’s illegal players has given Lioli another shot at the title and they seem to have grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

A few weeks ago, Lioli were out of the title race but the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) Dispute Resolution Chamber decision to award ‘Tse Nala’ three points and three goals for a game they had lost against Bantu in December has changed the way the script was going.
Last month, Bantu were found guilty of using South African players who were fraudulently registered as locals after Lioli laid a complaint against the defending champions.

Although Bantu appealed the decision, they failed to overturn the judgement and the four players have been de-registered.
Two of them, goalkeeper Thabo Selisa and defender Itumeleng Falene, were key players who played a key role in Bantu’s title triumph last season and in their Independence Cup triumph last October.

‘A Matšo Matebele’ are still in pole position to clinch the title but who will walk away with the title?

The contenders:

Bantu (1st on the log)
The Mafeteng giants have a slender lead of just a point ahead of Lioli but have played a game less than Lioli and two less than Matlama. Despite being docked points and losing players, they still look stronger and more dangerous and could still win the title despite their campaign being tainted with scandal. On Monday, they ran riot against relegation candidates Likhopo beating them 1-0.

The log leaders go into the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 cruising after that victory and with more self-belief than ever.
They meet Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) in the semi-finals on Saturday at Setsoto Stadium. A victory would book them a place in the final against Lioli or Matlama with a treble on the cards.

Lioli (2nd on the log)
‘Tse Nala’ endured a difficult start of the New Year under new coach Morena Ramorebodi. In January, they registered only one win the entire month and the bad performances frustrated the club’s fan base with some questioning whether Ramorebodi’s appointment was the right decision though the club backed their coach despite the criticism.

In the first leg of the LNIG Top 8 the Teyateyaneng based side surrendered to a 1-0 defeat to Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), a defeat that sparked a lot of emotions from supporters.  But they showed their superiority in the second leg when they turned the tie around away from home to win 2-1 on aggregate and reach the semi-finals against Matlama.

Although, Ramorebodi talks about the stability and identity of the team before thinking about trophies, that could be mind games because Lioli are aware the title is wide open again and they have an opportunity to claim silverware this season. With Lioli in the LNIG Top 8 last four, a double is possible.

Matlama (3rd on the log)
‘Tse Putsoa’ had a difficult campaign at the beginning of the season with things just not going their way despite playing well and creating chances in their games.

Their struggles saw them part ways with the then coach Seephephe Matete and Mosito Matela came on board. Since his arrival, Matela has steered the Matlama ship in the right direction and they now look formidable.

Matlama have played one game more than Lioli and two more than Bantu and if they are to win the league they have to avoid dropping points and hope Bantu and Lioli slip up.

However, even if they don’t win the league, the LNIG Top 8 trophy would end the long trophy drought Matlama fans have endured and it would be celebrated.

Luciah Phahla &
Nkheli Liphoto

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