Likuena told to improve performance

Likuena told to improve performance

MASERU – Lesotho coach Moses Maliehe says Likuena have to improve if they are to qualify for their first-ever international tournament.
Maliehe was speaking in the wake of Lesotho’s 1-1 draw with Cape Verde on Sunday in the side’s second 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group L qualifier.
The result at Setsoto Stadium leaves Likuena second in the group behind Uganda who also played to a draw against Tanzania at the weekend, a 0-0 stalemate last Saturday.
Maliehe blasted Lesotho’s first half display against Cape Verde in which the hosts were thoroughly outplayed in all facets of the game.

Likuena improved in the second period to take a 75th minute lead through Motebang Sera but jittery defending, a worrying feature of Lesotho’s display all afternoon, allowed Cape Verde to steal a late equaliser through Jorge Djaniny and deny Maliehe’s side two crucial points.
“We managed to get a goal in the end but a football match is played for 90 minutes and not for 45 minutes; we played for 45 minutes because in the first half we did not play well at all,” Maliehe said.

“However, in the second half after talking with the players things started to change, we attacked and we got a goal.”
One point is better than none, however, and Maliehe expressed relief at his team’s recovery after a nervous, uninspiring first half display.
“Honestly, I am very happy with my players, I am also happy they played well even though it was difficult,” Maliehe said.

“Like I said before this game, most of Cape Verde’s players are based in Europe so it was going to be very tactical and you also saw how they played,” he added.
“(Cape Verde) are very fit, they play old (school) football; they pass and play, they don’t stop (moving) like our players. But like I always say, we learn every time when we play and we are going to work on the things we did wrong and the things we should have done and didn’t do. But most important, we must learn that a game of football is played for 90 minutes, not 45 minutes.”
The importance of this qualifying campaign also can’t be understated.
Lesotho is in its best moment in recent memory.

In June, Likuena finished third at the 2018 COSAFA Cup after an impressive performance in South Africa.
Lesotho also has its most talented collection of players in some time, headlined by Tumelo Khutlang who recently joined South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) side Black Leopards and is off to a fine start across the border.

Likuena also boast Tshwarelo Bereng, a seasoned PSL pro who shone against Cape Verde. Masoabi Nkoto and Luciano Matsoso are likewise based in South Africa while Jane Tšotleho (Cambodia) and Lesia Thetsane (United States) offer options playing further abroad.
In addition, the 2019 AFCON – which will feature 24 teams for the first time – offers Lesotho its best chance to qualify for a continental championship because the top two teams from each group will advance to Cameroon next June.

The general consensus, therefore, is this is Lesotho’s golden opportunity with Likuena also having dodged Africa’s superpowers such as Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria and Zambia as has been the case in recent qualifying campaigns.

Lesotho’s next Group L games come in the form of a crucial double-header against Uganda next month.
Likuena will face the Cranes away on October 10 before hosting Uganda at Setsoto on October 14.
Maliehe said there will have to be improvement in how Lesotho approaches those ties.

“With the teams we are going to play against, we have to be strong when we have the ball and even when we don’t have the ball, and that is what we have been trying to do,” he said.
Another area is the side’s speed of play, an aspect Maliehe scouted from Cape Verde when they beat South Africa twice last year during 2018 World Cup qualifying.
“Our football here in Lesotho is very slow but you could see (Cape Verde) were quick,” Maliehe said.

“When they have the ball they are moving, we have to improve on those things. Our reaction was very slow, they were reacting quicker than us, and these are things we were working on during the week. Like I said, I did go and watch (Cape Verde) against South Africa, I saw that they are very quick with the ball and we were working on it but it will not be a success at once, we will have to keep on repeating it.”

A win on Sunday certainly would have helped and boosted the morale of the fans that made their way to Setsoto despite the cold and windy weather which left Cape Verde’s freezing bench wrapped with shawls throughout the game.
Nonetheless, despite their cold bodies, Cape Verde were the livelier side and must have felt aggrieved to go into the halftime break without a goal given their goalscoring chances.
The visitors were also helped by Lesotho’s defensive glitches with the back four, marshalled by skipper Mafa Moremoholo, leaving too many gaps for the opposition to exploit and forcing goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi to pull off heroic saves to keep the scores level.

Maliehe made changes in the second half, firstly by bringing on Sera for Nkoto after four minutes.
Soon afterwards Hlompho Kalake was introduced for the ineffective Jane.
The substitutions made a difference.

‘Stiga’, as Kalake is known, refreshed Likuena by attacking a Cape Verde defence that had been untested for 45 minutes at every opportunity.
For the first time Lesotho looked lively and Tšepo Toloane came close to giving the hosts the lead only for his shot to shave the crossbar.
The crowd roared their approval as they finally sensed urgency from their heroes and the magical moment came with 15 minutes to go as super-sub Sera took on a defender, cut inside and unleashed a monstrous strike past Josimar Dias to send the crowd into ecstasy.

It was a moment of brilliance but Basotho’s joy was short-lived as the visitors equalised on 82 minutes when Likuena paid a dear price for failing to clear their lines.
Despite drawing a second successive qualifier, Lesotho is still firmly in the race to Cameroon 2019.

Luciah Phahla

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