Senong is doing something right

Senong is doing something right

MASERU – It’s been almost two months since the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) unveiled former South Africa Under-20 coach Thabo Senong as Likuena head coach.

Senong was replacing Moses Maliehe and he was thrown straight into the deep end as he had to lead Lesotho into a two-legged 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia within a week of his appointment.
It was clear from the beginning that time was a luxury Senong didn’t have and he had to work with a squad that had already been selected by a temporary technical team which was in place when he arrived.

Lesotho was eventually knocked out on away goals, playing a goalless draw in the first leg in Ethiopia and a 1-1 draw at Setsoto Stadium in the return game.
After his appointment, Senong opened up about the challenges he faced as Lesotho coach. He admitted Likuena needed ‘major surgery’ and it was time the team started turning their possession into goals.
Indeed, there have been a lot of positives since Senong took over.
Likuena are creating a lot of chances.

If anything Lesotho was unlucky to be knocked out by Ethiopia after being denied by the crossbar three times in the deciding game at home.
It was a similar story against Malawi in a friendly match at Setsoto two weeks ago.

Likuena created a lot of chances but lacked composure in front of goals and were sometimes let down by their decision-making in the final third.
The same can be said about Sunday’s Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) defeat to Zimbabwe. Likuena drew the second leg 0-0 at Setsoto to go out 3-1 on aggregate. That Likuena were not able to finish the chances they created is a bitter pill to swallow.

Having narrowly missed out on qualifying for their first ever continental championships, Likuena will now turn their focus to the
2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers that start next month.
It is too early to panic or to tell whether there are positive signs that he could help Lesotho qualify for continental tournaments as he did with Amajita.
He has stayed true to his word that he will reward players who perform at their respective clubs with call-ups to the national team.

An example is Liphakoe midfielder Mohau Rammoneng who has done well in the games he played for the national team.
Kick4Life’s Tšeliso Botsane is another exmple.
Senong also recalled Litšepe Marabe after impressing with Bantu.
He has not been afraid to drop underperforming players.

Gone are the days when players used to keep their spots in the national team despite poor performances or not playing at their clubs.
Every player Senong called to the Likuena squad for the Zimbabwe tie deserved to be in the team.
A lot is changing in the national team but Basotho will have to be patient and trust the technical team.

The mentality of the players is starting to change and they now appear to have a hunger to win. A week ago Senong spoke about the change in the team’s attitude. The team is now more direct with the ball, positive with possession and encouraged to attack.

“The team used to create chances maybe about every six or eight minutes of the game, we are trying to reduce that by creating chances every three minutes of the game, which means we are encouraging a lot of penetration or forward thinking in a game because any game in football is about winning,” Senong said.

“That’s what we are trying to encourage, that if we play positive possession with penetration, that influences the winning mentality and I can tell you that the winning mentality has improved because we are more direct and less negative in our game approach, that’s why we create so many chances. The last thing is to just finish (the chances); we need confidence and composure and it is our job to work with our attackers,” the Likuena mentor added. At the moment Likuena’s main struggle is scoring goals.
Take a look at the attackers in the team. None has scored more than three goals for their clubs this season.

The lack of goals is not Senong’s problem to solve on his own; it is a collective problem for all the coaches in the Premier League. All the teams in the premier league don’t score a lot of goals; some teams drop points from winning positions simply because they cannot see the game out or go get those killer second goals. There are a lot of 1-1 or 0-0 draws in the league.
So far only one team has scored double digits (excluding yesterday’s games) goals and that is Matlama. There are teams that have scored just one goal since the season began.

Last week I was at Ha Ratjomose watching a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) training session and the emphasis was on scoring goals.
LDF head coach Motheo Mohapi explained that he had been very disappointed with the way things had gone in their previous games where they dropped points simply because they just couldn’t put the ball into the net.

Mohapi insisted LDF’s performances on the field did not match their results and he felt they deserved better.
Fair play to Mohapi and LDF, last Saturday they scored twice to beat Linare 2-0 and register their first win of the season. It isn’t surprising to come out of the stadium and hear fans moan about a lack of goals. It is a problem previous national team coaches have faced.
Likuena’s struggles mirror the state of our domestic league and how far we lag behind other leagues.

Majority of the teams have played five or six games but a total of 63 goals have been scored so far. It is not good enough; the top scorer doesn’t have more than four goals.
Bantu, Matlama and Lioli – three biggest clubs in Lesotho – should be providing Likuena with top strikers but it is not the case. Local players aren’t the focal point in the attacks of these clubs.

Those attackers that are at the ‘big three’ clubs do not get as much minutes and this is a problem Senong addressed last week before the Zimbabwe tie when talking about lack of goals in the team.
“Some of the key strikers in other big clubs are not Lesotho internationals,” Senong said.

“I would like to see maybe five good clubs in the Premier League using at least five quality strikers (and) giving them minutes. Mokone (Marabe) never plays more than 20 minutes (for Bantu),” he added.
“Most of the minutes go to Lazola (Jokojokwane) and we need Mokone for more than an hour in our games so the confidence will always be affected. These are some of the challenges we are faced with.”

Senong’s record so far:

04 September
Ethiopia 0-0 Lesotho (World Cup qualifier)
08 September
Lesotho 1-1 Ethiopia (World Cup qualifier)
22 September
Zimbabwe 3-1 (CHAN)
13 October
Malawi 1-1 (Friendly)
20 October
Zimbabwe 0-0 (CHAN)

Next month Likuena start their AFCON Qualifiers campaign and have been drawn in Group L with Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Benin. It is not an easy group but we go again. First one up is Sierra Leone away in round one followed by Nigeria at home.
For these games Senong will be armed with some of his international players playing in South Africa.

Tlalane Phahla


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