Lioli finally strike gold

Lioli finally strike gold

MASERU – Confidence is a precious commodity in sports and Lioli finally struck gold on Sunday by winning the Top 4 Independence Cup.
Until that point, it had been an uncharacteristically barren year at ‘Tse Nala’ with last season a particular disaster as the club cycled through three coaches, overhauled a beloved squad and finished without a trophy for the first time since 2012.

Such was the rot at the end of the campaign under Morena Ramorebodi, Lioli’s management felt compelled to change things despite the South African tactician only arriving in January and in came Lehlohonolo Thotanyana as coach and Mosholi Mokhothu as his assistant.
The early fruits of the new regime were unconvincing – Lioli won just three of their opening six league games – and confidence wasn’t particularly soaring as ‘Tse Nala’ went into the Independence Cup, a competition in which they finished last in 2017.
Lioli looked different this weekend, however.
On Saturday, ‘Tse Nala’ outclassed Matlama 2-0 in the semi-final and then, on Sunday, outlasted defending champions Bantu 2-1 in a dramatic final in front of a pumped up Setsoto Stadium.
It is the kind of triumph that not only boosts confidence, but can propel a team to further success.
“We are working towards taking back Lioli to its known place and although we are not there yet, we are getting very close,” assistant coach Mokhothu proclaimed amidst celebrations of a sixth Independence Cup title in club history.

“Our team changed a lot because we lost experienced players after the expiry of their contracts (in the offseason) so we had to introduce many new players and it is not easy for them to flourish immediately,” he added.
That Lioli defeated Bantu to win the Independence Cup is probably of even more importance to ‘Tse Nala’.

Last season, the Teyateyaneng giants finished eight points adrift of their Mafeteng rivals in the league which included an embarrassing 4-1 loss to ‘A Matšo Matebele’ in March.
In addition, Lioli hadn’t beaten Bantu in the league on the field of play since February 2011 and had lost to ‘A Matšo Matebele’ in the 2013 and 2015 Independence Cup finals – clearly, there was starting to be something of a Bantu hoodoo.

Sunday’s win, however, was Lioli’s second over Bantu in a space of three weeks after an equally valuable 1-0 victory in the Econet Premier League.
Lioli got their tactics spot-on to start Sunday’s final and outfoxed James Madidilane’s side. Most decisively, they were clinical as Swithbert Kum Bin and captain Mafa Moremoholo gave ‘Tse Nala’ a 2-0 halftime lead which Bantu couldn’t recover from.

“Bantu is a strong team and has a lot of quality so the first time we played them we identified their strong positions and we tried to adjust,” Mokhothu said.
“In recent times Bantu have been beating Lioli but for the past two to three weeks we have been working on making players understand that Bantu is just like any another team in the country. Unfortunately the battle (against Bantu) has turned into war to the players and fans; we have been working really hard to take that out of our players’ minds.”
Lioli’s preparations worked.

Their tactical approach which has changed this season with the more physical and direct duo of Gabon midfielder Stephane Heyong and Cameroon striker Kum Bin added to the mix, also befuddled Bantu. Now attention shifts back to the daily bread of the league.

Lioli are in fifth place in the Econet Premier League, four points off the top. There is also the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 which kicks off early next year.
The league, however, is the main prize and how Lioli fare in the premiership is ultimately how they will be judged this season.
“We are left with two competitions now which are the premier league and (LNIG) Top 8, so we are going back to the league with full force to remain in the top four,” Mokhothu said.
“Games are different which means even the approach will have to be different. We are just motivating our players to believe in winning but when we go back to the league we will have to approach it differently. We analyse the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents.”
Lioli walked away M200 000 richer on Sunday after winning the Independence Cup.
‘Tse Nala’, however, will hope the currency of confidence gained from the triumph will take them even further.

Independence Cup individual awards:
Man of the match (final) – Swithbert Kim (M3 000)
Player of the Tournament – Tumelo Makha (M8 000)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament – Jessy Matsie (M6 000)

Top goal-scorers:
Jane Thaba-Ntšo (M2 000) 2 goals
Swithbert Kim (M2 000) 2 goals
Hlompho Kalake (M2 000) 2 goals

Best Referee:
Osias Koto (M4 000)

Assistant Referee:
Souru Phatšoane (M2 000)
Puleng Mohobo (M2 000)

Team’s prize money:

Lioli M200 000
Bantu M100 000
LDF M70 000
Matlama M50 000

Nkheli Liphoto

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