Mahlaha braces for Lioli thunderstorm

Mahlaha braces for Lioli thunderstorm

MASERU-September was a difficult month for Halemakale Mahlaha and his Likhopo side as they suffered three successive Econet Premier League defeats, culminating in a disappointing 3-0 loss to Matlama.
October was not particularly fruitful either for the ‘Red Army’ and at the end of the first two months of the season it appeared Likhopo were headed for yet another stressful relegation battle, as had been the case in the previous two seasons.

Mahlaha, however, always remained positive and maintained that last season’s let-downs would not haunt his side again.
Instead, the former Lioli coach viewed last season’s survival by the skin of their teeth – through relegation-promotion playoffs against A-Division sides Ketane and Lithabaneng Golden – as a valuable learning curve.
Mahlaha was proved right.

Likhopo’s fortunes started to turn in November with a 3-1 win over Majantja.
Soon afterwards the ‘Red Army’ recorded an impressive 1-0 victory against Lioli, a win that kick-started the momentum which now has Likhopo flying in eighth place after being bottom of the Econet Premier League seven games into the campaign.

Their season saviours Lioli happen to be their opponents on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium.
The match also means Mahlaha faces his old club and the Likhopo mentor said he is upbeat for the showdown against ‘Tse Nala’ who are buoyant after a 6-0 rout of Swallows last weekend made it three wins in a row for Lioli.
After Likhopo’s 1-0 win over Lioli in December, Mahlaha said he is expecting the Teyateyaneng giants to come out guns blazing looking for revenge.

“It is going to be a very difficult match for us, and we know that,” Mahlaha said.
“Lioli is a very big team with good quality players in their squad. We beat them in the first round at their home ground so we expect them to come back strong for us.”
Regardless, confidence is high in the Likhopo camp after they beat Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) 2-0 last Saturday for another signature win.
Mahlaha lauded his players’ mentality and hard work to turn things around and overcome their difficult start to the season.

He said the key has been improved understanding within the Likhopo squad.
“The understanding now in the team is much better, it has improved and there is a chemistry between players; they work really hard,” Mahlaha said.
“The players now have a better understanding of what I want from them and the communication within the team is better now.”

Likhopo hope their improvements will be on show on Setsoto’s big stage against Lioli.
“I cannot say we have solved our goalscoring problems but we do score (more goals). It is a work in progress (but) we are improving,” Mahlaha said.

“Defensively we have also improved. We are no longer conceding many goals like before. I think we are strong in our all-round play and we plan differently depending on who we are facing next. The teams (in the league) are different. We look at the weaknesses of our opponents and we try to take advantage of that and make ourselves stronger in those areas (our opponents) are weak at.”

Tlalane Phahla

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