Matlama ends 8 years of misery

Matlama ends 8 years of misery

Maseru-After eight years of drought, finally there is something to smile about at Matlama.  On Sunday ‘Tse Putsoa’ won the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 to claim their first piece of silverware since winning the league in 2010.

Matlama’s moment of glory came after an emphatic 3-1 win over Bantu on Sunday thanks to goals from Phafa Tšosane, Lebajoa Mosehlenyane and Lehlomela Ramabele. Here is Matlama’s journey to the title:

Quarterfinals:

Matlama were drawn against Kick4Life in the LNIG Top 8 quarterfinals which were contested over two legs. The first leg was played at the Maputsoe DiFA Stadium and it was a pulsating affair though it didn’t end well for Mosito Matela’s side. Despite creating countless chances, Matlama lost 1-0, a defeat that appeared critical given ‘Tse Putsoa’ were designated as the home side. The result meant Kick4Life had snatched an all-important away goal.

However, two weeks later at the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) Ground, Matlama turned in arguably their best display of the season to outclass Kick4Life 3-1 and win the tie 3-2 on aggregate. It was an afternoon memorable for Phafa Tšosane’s wonder goal from near the halfway line and the resiliency Matlama showed to get goals from Lehlomela Ramabele and Lebajoa Mosehlanyane to seal the deal. Afterwards Matlama were widely hailed for their winning mentality and not giving up.

Semi-finals and final:

Four of the premier league’s big guns – Bantu, Lioli, LCS and Matlama – proceeded to the semi-finals at Setsoto. It was a football festival that nobody wanted to miss. Matlama met Lioli in their semi-final and after drubbing ‘Tse Nala’ 4-1 in the league a few weeks earlier, ‘Tse Putsoa’ proved their upper hand again to win 1-0 and book their place in the final against Bantu.

Games between Matlama and Bantu always attract a large crowd to the stadium and it was no surprise that Sunday’s final was the best supported match of the tournament. Mosito Matela’s charges drew first blood in the opening half as Tšosane fired a powerful shot from 20 yards which beat Bantu goalkeeper Thabiso Lichaba and the game went into the halftime break with ‘Tse Putsoa’ in the driver’s seat.

Things got more dramatic in the second half. Bantu coach James Madidilane made changes and brought in hitman Lazola Tjokotjokwana in place of Litšepe Marabe. It worked, only taking the striker three minutes to get on the scoresheet.

With the scores level and fans on the edge of their seats watching the game needed a moment of magic and it was Lehlomela Ramabele who restored Matlama’s lead and sent the blue half of the crowd into a frenzy. Lebajoa Mosehlanyane then struck to seal a sensational victory for Matlama.

Just a few months ago Matlama were a crisis club with the team struggling to pay players their allowances causing them to miss training. Now they are reaping the rewards of their faith in Matela.

Not only did Matela stabilise the ship, he has also brought confidence and built a winning mentality. Matlama now play like a team that knows each other’s weaknesses. Matela dedicated the LNIG Top 8 victory to the understanding within the team.

“I like a team that is made up of disciplined committed players and talent as well, they must love what they are doing,” he said. “I don’t want players who come and play football just because they have nothing else to do. All I did was to instill that commitment and that is the key that helped us.”

“We are done with the LNIG Top 8 now,” Matela added. “We are going to concentrate on the league because we have to make sure we will qualify for the top four. That is our target. We didn’t qualify for the top four last season so we are going to work hard to achieve that,” he said.

Perhaps Matela is just being modest and doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but the truth is there is still a chance for Matlama to win the league this season. They certainly have the firepower.  Mosehlenyane, for example, was the star of the LNIG Top 8 tournament and it came as no surprise when the forward was named as the Player of the Tournament. He also won the top scorer award with four goals.

Now Matlama will turn their focus back to the Econet Premier League where they have five matches left to play and perhaps create yet more memories for their fans.

“We are starting from scratch this week and we will be preparing for our league games, we are going to work hard,” Matela said.

“I want to thank the fans and my technical team for being there with us through thick and thin.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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