Lioli set to reclaim lost glory

Lioli set to reclaim lost glory

MASERU – The problem with being a big club is there is always expectation to win and, at times, even the slightest slips become disasters.
Success – as they say – becomes both a gift and a curse and after ascending to the pinnacle of Lesotho football over the past decade, this is the reality facing Lioli today.
Their roll call of trophies since 2009 is undoubtedly impressive.

Four league championships, three Independence Cup crowns and three Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 titles have made their way to Teyateyaneng over the last ten years and no club can claim to have amassed more trophies than Lioli’s ten in that period with Bantu being the closest with nine.
However, that success brings expectancy and ‘Tse Nala’ go into the 2018/19 season under the microscope after lumbering through a trophy-less 2017/18 campaign, their first season without silverware since 2011/12.

Make no mistake about it; last season was a tumultuous one for Lioli.
Usually a poster club for stability, ‘Tse Nala’ cycled through three coaches last term and ended the season in turmoil under South African tactician Morena Ramorebodi who was expensively signed in January amid much fanfare.

By the end of the season Lioli had not only lost out on the league title, they had also been embarrassed 4-1 by both Matlama and Bantu, the worst defeats to their rivals in a generation.
Ramorebodi is now gone; club favourites Lehlohonolo Thotanyana and Mosholi Mokhothu are at the helm and the first glimpses of the new era were offered at last weekend’s Alliance Winter Challenge pre-season tournament.

The early signs were quite encouraging.
Lioli won the four-team showpiece for the first time outclassing LCS 1-0 in the final on Sunday after thrashing newly-promoted Swallows 5-0 in the semi-final a day earlier.
On both days the Lioli players seemed invigorated as they zipped the ball around the Setsoto Stadium turf in the time-honoured traditions of the club.
The positivity also filtered through to the fans who left the stadium singing positive tunes, a stark contrast to the dark clouds which hovered at the end of last season when Lioli finished second in the league but were a full eight points adrift of champions Bantu.

Unsurprisingly, assistant coach Mosholi Mokhothu called the weekend’s outing a success.
“We are happy with the (Alliance Insurance Challenge), it has given us a clearer picture of where we are as far as the new season is concerned,” he said.
“The team’s performance was good and our players worked really hard, we are impressed because they played according to our plan.”
That plan was simple: dominate possession and create goal-scoring chances quicker than was usually the case last season.
And, with the club having assembled a dream team of sorts in the technical area, there is growing hope in Teyateyaneng the plans will work when it counts when the Econet Premier League season kicks off on September 15 against Kick4Life.

Mokhothu, of course, is the most successful coach in Lioli’s history with three league titles to his name while Thotanyana led ‘Tse Nala’ to the championship in 2013 meaning, between them, Mokhothu and Thotanyana have been responsible for four of the five league crowns in the club’s history.

“I think all areas need touch ups here and there and our programme will start this week,” Mokhothu said.
“We also have individuals who need help here and there, and they will get help before the league starts,” he added.

“The tournament gave us a chance to assess the players who are training with the team to see who we can sign and add to the squad.”
Among the new players was Cameroonian trialist, Olomo Desire, who impressed throughout and scored in the final.
Equally important, Lioli would also have been pleased by their young players showing they can step into bigger roles this season; for example, Retšelisitsoe Moepi who won the Alliance Winter Challenge’s young player and player of the tournament awards.

“When it comes to the new players who played in the winter tournament, we are going to sit down and discuss which ones we keep or release from the team but the performance as a whole was good,” Mokhothu said.

Of course, the Alliance Winter Tournament is only a pre-season warm-up and it is wise not to get carried away.
The experienced Mokhothu said as much.

“I can’t say we are not fully ready for the league season, we have some areas that need corrections and we need to play two or three games for us to be sure of our team,” he said.
Nonetheless, the early signs are positive that Lioli may return to winning ways this coming season.
Their fans, of course, will demand no less.

Alliance Winter Tournament Individual awards:
Top Goal Scorer – Lekhanya Lekhanya (Lioli) 2 goals, M1 000
Defender of the Tournament – Poloko Mohale (LCS), M1 000
Midfielder of the Tournament – Tšoanelo Koetle (Lioli), M1 000
Young Player of the Tournament – Retšelisitsoe Moepi (Lioli), M1 000
Goalkeeper of the Tournament – Paseka Khang (Lioli), M1 000
Player of the Tournament – Retšelisitsoe Moepi (Lioli) M1 500

Nkheli Liphoto

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