Matlama rules the roost

Matlama rules the roost

MASERU – THE international break couldn’t have come at a better time for some clubs in the Econet Premier League.
The 2018/19 season has started with twists and turns and some sides already finding themselves in situations they never wanted to be in while others are on cloud nine.
All clubs are heading into the two-week international recess with five games under their belts and only Matlama remain unbeaten with three wins and two draws.
So far 68 goals have been scored around the country in the top-flight with Lesotho Correctional Service leading the charts with 12 goals followed by log leaders Matlama with nine goals.
It is clear the inability to find the net continues to haunt the league.

68 goals scored in 70 games is a poor return and is a sneak preview of why the national team Likuena has struggled to score goals for so long.
If you sit down with almost every premier league coach and ask about this season’s goalless draws and 1-0 scores, they complain about goal-scoring.
They complain about the number of chances their teams create but miss, and this problem spreads to the national team.
Anyone that watches football knows 68 goals after five rounds of league games is very poor.

However, this is the first international break since the league kicked off and here are the winners and the losers at this stage of the season.
While the likes of Matlama would be expected to be at the top end of the table, it has been a mixed season for other teams and it will be interesting to see where the sides stand when the next international break comes around.
So far this is how we picked the Econet Premier League’s winners and the losers.

Linare

Linare were one of the Econet Premier League’s disappointments last season as they finished ninth with just eight wins from 24 games.
It seemed as though their problems were following them into the new season when they were hammered 4-0 by Matlama last month in their opening game of the campaign.
‘Tse Tala’, however, have bounced back with three victories against Likhopo, Swallows and Majantja and they enter the international break in seventh place, only behind Lioli and Liphakoe on goal difference.

Linare can consider themselves winners after the opening five weeks and the two-week international break might even do them good.
It gives Teele Ntšonyana and his charges an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and reflect on their mistakes.
Ultimately, there is no shame in losing to log leaders Matlama and it is last Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Sefotha-fotha that Linare will probably beat themselves about. With a win against Sefotha-fotha, ‘Tse Tala’ could be sitting as league leaders.

However, their start must make Linare positive about their chances of returning to the top eight.
While it is still early in the season, Linare’s form so far suggests they have what it takes to at least finish in the top eight.

Next three games:

20/10 Linare vs. Galaxy (A)
03/11 Linare vs. Kick4Life (A)
11/11 Linare vs. Bantu (H)

Liphakoe

The Quthing based side are sixth on the Econet Premier League table having registered three wins and only two defeats in their five matches this season.
One of the victories came against Kick4Life on Sunday and it will definitely build confidence in the team that they can have a better season than last.
Liphakoe were promoted to the top-flight in the 2015/16 season and finished 11th. The following year they came 10th and last season finished ninth and narrowly missed out on the top eight as Majantja beat them to the coveted spot by two points.
Liphakoe are making steady progress and making it into the league’s top eight teams and qualifying for the annual Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 showpiece must be a dream in Quthing.

However, their next five fixtures are going to be very tough.
After the international break Liphakoe meet southern rivals Majantja and then have Bantu away before a home game against Lioli. Those two difficult fixtures are followed by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
If Liphakoe manage to get at least eight points from those games it will be a good return for the Quthing side.

Next three games:

20/10 Liphakoe vs. Majantja (A)
04/11 Liphakoe vs. Bantu (A)
10/11 Liphakoe vs. Lioli (H)

LCS

Not only are LCS the only team to hit double digits when it comes to goals scored so far, ‘Masheshena’ have also been one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
Second on the log just one point behind the leaders, LCS seem to have learnt from their mistakes last season and appear a focused unit this term.
Mpitsa Marai’s side may have lost this past weekend to Bantu but it was their first loss of the season and assistant coach Shalane Lehohla blamed a tough run of games they had to play before they could recover properly.
LCS needed a response after missing out on the top four last season and although there is still a lot to be done, ‘Masheshena’ are winners going into the international break.

Next three games:

21/11 LCS vs. Kick4Life (A)
04/11 LCS vs. Lioli (A)
10/11 LCS vs. LDF (H)

Bantu

The two-time defending champions have been underwhelming this season. ‘A Matšo Matebele’ only have two wins from their five matches.
It is a stark contrast to last season when the Mafeteng giants started off with five straight wins to set them on the way to a successful title triumph.
However, it is still too early to write them off the title race just yet.

Big clubs do struggle in the beginning of a season and some would say it is normal for a side to go through a slight lull after winning back-to-back titles.
The players may lack the motivation to maintain their high standards and winners also know they can always bounce back to turn things around.
James Madidilane and his charges will likely change their fortunes as the season progresses but, for now, they are the losers heading into the international break.
They are in eighth place on the log after five games with just eight points from possible 15 which is not good enough for a club of Bantu’s stature and with the quality they possess in their squad.
Madidilane admitted Sunday’s 1-0 win over LCS was a must-win for his team to boost their confidence. This break is probably the best thing the champions could have hoped for, a chance to go back and rethink their plans.

Next three games:

21/10 Bantu vs. LMPS (H)
04/11 Bantu vs. Liphakoe (H)
11/11 Linare vs. Bantu (A)

Majantja

Perhaps a lot was expected from Majantja after last season’s solid debut in the Econet Premier League campaign in which they finished eighth.
This season, however, has been far from what they were hoping for and it has been a nightmare for the Mohale’s Hoek based side so far.
Last week the club’s spokesperson, Tšepang Makakule, admitted the team’s performance on the field is being greatly affected by off-field politics in the club’s management and that players are unhappy about certain things.
Majantja finished in the top eight last year but they could find themselves in the relegation dogfight this season if they continue like this.
Majantja started the campaign by losing three games consecutively in poor fashion. They then surprisingly beat Lioli only to lose to Linare in the very next game.

Next three games:

20/10 Majantja vs. Liphakoe (H)
03/11 Majantja vs. Matlama (H)
11/11 Majantja vs. Likhopo (A)

Kick4Life

One victory, three draws, one defeat and six points from a possible 15 available is not good enough for Bob Mafoso’s team.
It is worth mentioning that all three draws Kick4Life have played so far were all goalless and came against LDF, LMPS and Bantu. One may also argue Kick4Life have had a tough fixture list to start the season and they were bound to struggle a bit after the departure of Leslie Notši as coach in the offseason.
However, with the quality they possess, they should be beating Liphakoe and then you can stomach three draws against the top teams in the league.
Bob Mafoso is a proven winner and a very good coach who has proved himself in the league. He led Sundawana to a wonderful fourth place in 2016 and then won back-to-back titles as Bantu assistant coach before joining Kick4Life in June.

It is only five games in but judging by their performances so far, it is difficult to expect much more than a top eight finish from the Old Europa side this season.
Likhopo deserve an honourable mention in the losers’ category heading into the international break. With four defeats and a draw against premier league newcomers Swallows, Likhopo have been dreadful this season.

Kick4Life’s next three games:

21/10 Kick4Life vs. LCS (H)
03/11 Kick4Life vs. Linare (H)
11/11 Kick4Life vs. Matlama (A)

Luciah Phahla

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