Matlama dare to dream again

Matlama dare to dream again

Luciah Phahla

Maseru – Maybe a change of voice was all Matlama needed.
Just a month after appearing to have lost their season ‘Tse Putsoa’ are on cloud nine thanks to last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Bantu at Setsoto Stadium that has Matlama fans daring to dream once more.

It was the perfect start to Seephephe “Mochini” Matete’s reign as ‘Tse Putsoa’ coach and whatever he said worked.
Matlama played with a swagger comparable to last season when they came within a point of winning the Vodacom Premier League.

For Matete the most important issue to fix when he took over at the beginning of December with Matlama having one win in five matches was to work on the players’ mental strength and reignite their “love of football”.

“The players should know why they are playing,” a satisfied Matete said after watching his charges defeat their visitors from Mafeteng. “You could see there was no discipline (when I arrived), they did not have love for football and they didn’t know what they were playing for,” he added.

“They were fighting saying supporters were not supporting them well. (But) they have to play for their team. I did not start well because I started at Christmas but I begged the players to come to training while they were still on their holidays and they did come.”
Matlama’s new-found commitment to the cause carried over onto the Setsoto pitch.

Tactically, Matete opted for a lone striker using last season’s top scorer Motebang Sera as his main target-man.
The strategy didn’t bring immediate dividends.

In the first half Matlama failed to create clear-cut chances and instead it was Bantu who fashioned good openings but couldn’t find a way past Tse Putsoa goalkeeper Monaheng Ramalefane.
Matlama’s fortunes changed in the second half as they returned a more refreshed side. Matete added more firepower upfront with Phafa Tšosane moving further forward to support Sera while Mabuti Potloane dropped deep in the midfield.

It was an inspired change. Soon after the restart Matlama defender Michael Mireku embarked on a solo run, dribbling past Bantu’s defence, before he crossed to an unmarked Tšosane who made no mistake with a well-placed finish from just outside the box.

Mireku then continued his man-of-the-match performance by helping Matlama secure a hard-fought clean-sheet.
Matete, though, reserved his highest praises for Matlama’s attack for persevering after firing blanks at the end of 2016.
“We are always working on finishing,” Matete said.
“A player will miss two or three chances and score one, it happens in football. But, the most important thing is to arrive in the opponent’s box and the fact that they got into Bantu’s box is good for us,” he said.

‘Tse Putsoa’ still remained seventh but, with 20 points, they are now seven points off first place.
While Matlama joyously celebrated, Bantu coach, James Madidilane, was left to rue missed chances.
Madidilane blamed a lack of communication amongst his players and admitted ‘A Matšo Matebele’ are now under pressure to maintain their position on top of the Vodacom Premier League.

Bantu, on 27 points, still lead the standings, one point ahead of Lioli and Kick4Life. But, the margin for error has disappeared.
“It was a lack of communication between our players (that led to Matlama’s goal),” Madidilane said.

“We dominated but we have to give credit to Matlama, they played well. Looking at the chances we created, we should have scored more and buried the game in the first half. We didn’t take our chances and Matlama made it very difficult for us.”
He added: “It is worse that we are number one (in the league). Now every team that comes to play us is a war. We have to make sure we win the next game.”
Observations from Matlama versus Bantu:
Saturday’s clash between Matlama and Bantu was a fabulous start to the Vodacom Premier League year as both teams produced a thoroughly entertaining affair at Setsoto.

In the end the game was decided by a cross from out wide which is how football is: crosses and set-pieces account for over two-thirds of all goals scored.  However, the cross didn’t come from a winger; instead, it resulted from a marauding run by a central defender in Matlama’s Michael Mireku.

It was a feature of Saturday’s game that not once did a wide player from either side attack their defender and get to the by-line to cross the ball. Instead, all wingers on show continually elected to cut back inside into traffic.

Perhaps this was a tactic but it probably speaks to a wider problem in local football of wingers no longer attacking fullbacks and getting crosses into the box.  This may explain the lack of goals this season — all 14 teams in the top-flight are averaging less than two goals per game — and it translates to the national team Likuena as well.

The Chuku effect
Peter “Chuku” Moloisane was Bantu’s most dangerous outlet, especially in the opening stages of the game. He started on the left wing and he gave Matlama rightback Mohai Mohai fits.
However, around the 30 minute mark, Moloisane switched flanks with Litšepe Marabe and Bantu began to lose the impetus they had in attack.

It was a curious decision from Bantu coach James Madidilane because until that point the Mafeteng side were having joy with Moloisane on the left and Marabe on the right.
Bantu’s reduced threat from the flanks was one of the reasons Matlama were able to force their way into the game.

Structure
Numerous times in the game there was no noticeable structure from both teams and the fact Matlama midfielders Relebohile Mabone and Mabuti Potloane held their position in the centre of the park was probably the deciding factor in the end.

Both teams, especially Bantu, were too eager to interchange positions on the field. It made the game overly random at times, especially in the second half when Bantu went all-out on attack in search of an equaliser while Matlama defended desperately and reverted to long balls forward to relieve pressure.

Prospects going forward
Things are a bit rosier for Matlama now than they were last week and they can approach Sunday’s game against Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) with confidence.
After LMPS they host Liphakoe and Butha-Buthe Warriors and realistically Matlama can hope for nine points from their next three games.  If Matlama play with the same intensity they displayed against Bantu they can secure maximum points.

Matlama’s next three games:
15/01/17: LMPS v Matlama
22/01/17: Matlama v Liphakoe
29/01/17: Matlama v Butha-Buthe Warriors

Bantu’s slate of games for the rest of January is similarly decent, on paper.  ‘A Matšo Matebele’ face the bottom three, Likhopo, Butha-Buthe Warriors and Rovers, in their next three games and would be disappointed if they don’t find themselves still top of the Vodacom premiership at the end of the month.

Bantu’s next three games:
15/01/17: Bantu v Likhopo
21/01/17: Butha-Buthe Warriors v Bantu
28/01/17: Rovers v Bantu

Lack of security
Although both sets of supporters were impeccably behaved during a beautiful afternoon of football, it was still a concern to see such little security on show.

After the game, fans easily invaded the pitch with players and club officials still on the field. This is concerning considering the incidents of crowd violence that blighted the opening months of the season and saw the death of a fan. Security at grounds is still not being taken seriously enough by clubs and the Premier League.

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