MASERU – The Vodacom Premier League (VPL) race will be decided tomorrow, with Bantu and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) FC looking to increase their chances of winning the 2022-23 title. With only two matches remaining in the season, the league’s supposedly two-horse competition is becoming increasingly tight.
Bantu, who now lead the 16-team VPL log table with 62 points, play Lesotho Correction Service (LCS) FC away from home. Second-placed LDF, with 59 points, are also away to Lioli. Both Bantu and LDF won their last league matches, the latter 5-1 at the expense of Premier League rookies, Naughty Boys on Wednesday, while Bantu beat CCX FC 2-0 last Sunday.
However, against LCS, which are presently in fifth place with 53 points, Bantu will face their most cunning opponents, especially away from home.
LCS host Bantu after being held to a goalless draw away to Lijabatho on Wednesday, which is likely to make tomorrow’s match too difficult for A-Matšo-Matebele. “Every game we have played so far has been equally important for us to win in order for us to walk away with the league title at the end of the season,” Bantu coach Atang Bob Mafoso told Public Eye yesterday.
“Likewise, our upcoming game against LCS is going to be crucial to win for us to further intensify our chances of collecting the league title.”
Mafoso further said: “As far as the league race is concerned, you will realise that everything is in our control. We just need to win our (two) remaining games, playing one game at a time without putting ourselves under pressure.” But he admits that the LCS match will not be a walk in the park for them. “This is not going to be an easy game for us given that LCS are also fighting for a spot in the top 4.
“Playing away from home will only make matters worse for us.” LDF, on the other hand, are up against their arch rivals Lioli. Tse Nala, who are now in ninth place with 39 points, defeated Matlama 2-1 at home on Wednesday.
Lioli have not lost in their last four league games. The Teya-Teyaneg-based team drew once before winning three consecutive games. The two teams met after Lioli defeated LDF 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 tie in the inaugural People’s Cup semi-finals at Bocheletsane Stadium last month. So it remains to be seen whether Lioli will win double over LDF or whether LDF will get sweet retribution.
“Of course, it is going to be crucial to win the upcoming match because only a win will keep us in the race for the league title,” said LDF coach Motheo ‘Six to Six’ Mohapi.
“But if we lose against Lioli, Bantu will open a huge gap between us.” Mohapi, however, promises that they are ready for Lioli match, adding they are just waiting for match day. “Everything is ok. As an individual, I hate to lose, and LDF, like a big team, also hate to lose because they are the pride of the army.”
Mohapi further said: “So losing some of our previous games did not mean we were not serious, but we lost because football is football and it does not have a formula. We were desperate to win.” The fact that Bantu have a better chance of winning the league than LDF gives Mohapi and his squad nightmares. This is because Bantu need only four points to win the coveted VPL league title in the current season.
Bantu will be satisfied with a single win and a draw, whereas LDF must win both of their remaining matches. LDF hope that Bantu do not get all three points against LCS away tomorrow and Lifofane at home next Saturday. LDF’s final home game of the season will be against Linare on Saturday. Linare are now third on the log table, just two points behind LDF, with 57 points.
Linare will have a slim chance of winning the league if both Bantu and LDF lose their final two games. As a result, the Linare-LDF encounter will be one of the toughest VPL matches as the 2022-23 season comes to a close next weekend. The army team will need to win against both Lioli and Linare away from home.
Mohapi laments the opportunities that his charges do not always make use of. He claims that if that had not happened, they would have won the league title a long time ago. “Even in Bocheletsane, we have ourselves to blame for losing to Lioli. We could have taken our chances instead of going to penalties.
“We had numerous opportunities but were unable to capitalise on them. Tomorrow’s VLP fixture between Matlama and Linare is sure to be epic. Matlama travel to Linare after two straight league defeats, a 1-0 setback to Naughty Boys last month and a 2-1 loss to Lioli on Wednesday,” Mohapi also said.
Linare, on the other hand, paid a visit to Matlama after defeating Galaxy 5-1 in the Leribe derby on Sunday. Matlama, who began competing for the league title, are now in sixth place with 53 points, equal to LCS’ tally in fifth place. Apart from their present league positions, Matlama and Linare have been long-time rivals, which will make their encounter tomorrow more exciting and difficult to win for either team.
Tomorrow’s fixtures at a glance
CCX vs. LMPS
LCS vs. Bantu
Naughty Boys vs. Swallows
Lioli vs. LDF
Manonyane vs Liphakoe
Galaxy vs. Machokha
Matlama vs. Linare
Lifofane vs Lijabatho