Only a miracle can help Bantu

Only a miracle can help Bantu

MASERU-If there is one place where miracles still happen it is in football; nonetheless, if Bantu defend their Econet Premier League title again this season, serious questions will have to be asked of Matlama and Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS).

‘Tse Putsoa’ and ‘Masheshena’ are top of the premiership log standings and boast a nine-point cushion to the league’s third-placed side, Lioli.

As a result, Matlama (38 points) and LCS (37 points) are clear favourites to lift the title at the end of the season with two-time defending champions Bantu languishing in fifth place and on the outside looking in.
With just three months left in the season, time is quickly running out for ‘A Matšo Matebele’ who have 26 points and now have to hope for help.

Worryingly, Bantu find themselves mired in their most inconsistent season since their 2016/17 title win which means there is no guarantee they can come back and defend their crown despite their games in hand – three on Matlama and four on LCS.
Some of Bantu’s inconsistency can be traced to their CAF adventures which began in November and ended last month.

During that time ‘A Matšo Matebele’ went on a tiring African safari to face Botswana’s Township Rollers and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s AS Vita Club in the CAF Champions League before being knocked out of the CAF Confederation Cup last month by Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers.

Their travels wreaked havoc on Bantu’s domestic schedule causing them to fall behind the rest of the league.
It also robbed James Madidilane’s coaching staff any level of regularity when it comes to game-planning while fatigue has also reared its ugly head in some of Bantu’s recent outings.

Bantu’s attacking stars such as Litšepe Marabe, Hlompho Kalake and Lazola Tjokotjokwana are also not firing as they have done in recent seasons and their inconsistency helps explain how a team fighting for the title goes from thrashing Majantja 6-1 last Wednesday to drawing 0-0 with relegation threatened Swallows a few days later.
Perhaps the weight of history is bearing down on Bantu who are looking to become just the second ever team to win three successive titles, joining Lesotho Defence Force’s juggernaut side of 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Whatever the case may be, the Mafeteng giants are not playing the same brand of football which saw them dominate the past two league campaigns and those two points dropped on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium against Swallows may come to haunt them in the final reckoning of the title race.

Bantu’s inconsistent supply of goals is one issue which needs fixing quickly.
Even after thumping Majantja 6-1 last week, Madidilane raised concerns about his side’s failure to convert chances and his fears were realised in Bantu’s toothless display against Swallows, their second goalless outing in the past four games after a 0-0 draw with Likhopo in January.

Afterwards, Madidilane refused to be drawn into any title discussions insisting a lot of games remain. The Bantu coach asserted he would only be able to talk after 18 games because he would have a clearer picture of where his team stands.

Solutions have to come quick, however, because the schedule is not going to get any easier with the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 starting this month and catch-up matches to play.
There is also a small matter of a clash against Matlama in two weeks’ time which could potentially end Bantu’s title aspirations if they were to lose.

Because of their quality and a squad brimming with title winners, Bantu, of course, cannot be written off just yet.
The team is filled with leaders starting with captain Thapelo Mokhehle but, if they are to protect their crown, Bantu will have to put together a run of wins because draws, at this stage, will not cut it when Matlama and LCS are winning their fixtures.

That is where Bantu find themselves right now, a far cry from the beginning of the season when the Mafeteng giants looked odds-on favourites to retain their place atop Lesotho football for another year.
Right now it looks as though ‘A Matšo Matebele’ will need a memorable miracle to win the Econet Premier League.

Tlalane Phahla

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