Madidilane rues missed chances

Madidilane rues missed chances

Maseru-Bantu entered last weekend’s Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 Finals at Setsoto Stadium with high hopes of taking a giant step towards eventually becoming the first side to win a domestic treble. ‘A Matšo Matebele’ had already captured the Independence Cup last October and, with a steady lead in the Econet Premier League, the LNIG Top 8 was the missing piece in the Mafeteng side’s historic puzzle.

However, after a dramatic come from behind 3-2 win over Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) in the semi-finals last Saturday, Bantu’s treble hopes evaporated in similarly stunning fashion as Matlama powered to a surprise 3-1 win in Sunday’s final. In a game that was typified by bustling runs in the autumn afternoon sun, it was Bantu – Lesotho’s preeminent side over the past 12 months – who simply could not match their opponent’s energy and vitality.

From the moment Phafa Tšosane’s long range shot squirmed through Bantu keeper Thabiso Lichaba in the 22nd minute, something felt off about ‘A Matšo Matebele’ and at the final whistle it all felt like a missed chance for the club. All Bantu coach James Madidilane could do was to rue the missed opportunities by his side. “We had a lot of chances but we didn’t take them,” he said succinctly.

“Matlama used their chances profitably, they capitalised on the chances they had.” It could have been different.

Lazola Tjokotjokwana had given Bantu hope on 55 minutes when he came off the bench to equalise but ‘A Matšo Matebele’ were unable to kick on and Lehlomela Ramabele and Lebajoa Mosehlanyane sealed the LNIG Top 8 title for Matlama with strikes of their own. “We were not ourselves at all in this game,” Madidilane said.

“I think our previous game against LCS on Saturday took a lot of my players’ energy.” The loss to Matlama was the first time Madidilane tasted defeat in a cup final since he took over the reins at Bantu in June 2016. In that time the South African tactician has delivered the 2016/17 league title and the 2017 Independence Cup.

However, Sunday’s heart-breaking defeat means Bantu must now refocus quickly to avoid losing their grip on the league title as well. ‘A Matšo Matebele’ still control their own destiny in the Econet Premier League. They have collected 39 points from 17 games, one point ahead of rivals Lioli who have played a game more.

However, after being docked three points last month for using illegally registered players and now losing a final to Matlama, Bantu are facing their first moment of adversity this season. Their next league opposition, Kick4Life, are also not the easiest proposition after a LNIG Top 8 hangover.

Madidilane, though, insisted his side’s confidence remains unshaken — indeed, Bantu still have some history to strive for; by winning the league again they would join Matlama, Linare, Lesotho Defence Force, Likhopo, LCS and Lioli as the only clubs to win back-to-back championships.

Madidilane called for focus and said Bantu will fight to wrap up the Econet premiership title “as soon as possible.”

“This is not the end for Bantu Football Club,” Madidilane added.

“We still have the league in our hands, therefore, we are not going to let this match (against Matlama) demotivate or keep us down – we want to fight to win the league.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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